March 4, 2024

New UCalgary program embraces Indigenous perspectives and intercultural capacity building

Hybrid learning program encourages faculty and staff to become good relatives
Faculty and staff members are invited to reflect and learn about Indigenous ways of doing, being, knowing, and connecting with the goal to foster meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities.
Faculty and staff members are invited to reflect and learn about Indigenous ways of doing, being, knowing, and connecting. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The University of Calgary is calling upon its faculty and staff to become “good relatives” with the launch of a new hybrid learning program called URise Indigenous. 

Created by the Office of Indigenous Engagement (OIE), in collaboration with UCalgary Human Resources, URise Indigenous aims to enhance learning and understanding of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures and worldviews. With the program offering 20 hours of in-person and online learning, culminating in a digital certificate, URise Indigenous facilitators hope to spark further progress toward truth and reconciliation within the university.

“Oftentimes, reconciliation becomes a buzzword; we avoid the truth and jump into conversations about reconciliation, but the programming we deliver is about addressing and validating the truth that will support transformative reconciliation,” says Gerald Ratt, Indigenous intercultural initiatives specialist with OIE and one of the many driving forces behind the program’s development. Ratt says the idea was borne from student, faculty and staff collaboration focused on intercultural capacity-building. 

“The word ‘allyship’ has many challenges,” says Ratt. “We want to centre Indigenous worldviews and what it means to becoming a good relative.”

URise Indigenous includes four core courses (mix of online self-directed and in-person delivery) covering topics such as the story of UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii' taa'poh'to'p; the Indian Act; land acknowledgements; and beginning the journey toward reconciliation. 

Faculty and staff members are invited to reflect and learn about Indigenous ways of doing, being, knowing, and connecting with the goal to foster meaningful relationships with Indigenous Peoples and communities. Ratt says the core courses are a great starting point for non-Indigenous peoples looking to build awareness, sensitivity and cultural competency as they navigate the potentially emotional journey toward truth and reconciliation.

A man in a sweater stands in front of a microphone holding a red paper

Gerald Ratt

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

“We need to normalize these kinds of conversations,” says Ratt regarding Canada’s legacy of colonialism and settler racism. “Oftentimes, fear, shame and guilt emerge, and we’re often afraid of these feelings that oftentimes we avoid or dismiss the process of unlearning and relearning.”

By participating in URise Indigenous workshops, Ratt says, learners can discuss their experiences and share their emotions in a safe environment with a smaller circle of learners. 

He says facing these emotions head-on can hopefully encourage non-Indigenous Canadians to begin questioning power imbalances that exist within societal systems and create potential for transformation and change. 

Additional courses are also available for those further along on their journey to truth and reconciliation who are looking to continue their learning. Optional classes include an anti-Indigenous racism workshop series, a tipi training workshop, and other courses still in development. While these workshops are complementary to the core courses, Ratt stresses their importance in becoming a good relative by understanding one’s responsibilities to not only other humans, but also to animals, the environment and the world at large.

Ratt says he is proud of the work done so far on URise Indigenous, but emphasizes the program is only a small step in the right direction and that more work needs to be done to ensure emotional and cultural safety for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples in higher education.

“Meaningful reconciliation needs action, so I’m encouraging faculty and staff to really engage themselves in this learning process because we have the opportunity here as an institution to lead by example,” he says. 

“The rest of Canada can learn from us in terms of the framework we utilize in our ii’ taa’poh’to’p Indigenous Strategy. We are not leading by saying, ‘Indigenous people are better,’ but with our efforts and continuous work through a parallel process and doing this together in a good way.”

For more information on URise Indigenous and how to participate in the program, visit the URise Indigenous registration page via the my.ucalgary learning portal.

The University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, “in a good way,” UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.

Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.