Uncovering the Experiences of Engaging Indigenous Knowledges in Colonial Structures of Schooling and Research


  • Mairi McDermott University of Calgary
  • Jennifer MacDonald University of Calgary
  • Jennifer Markides University of Calgary
  • Mike Holden University of Calgary




Indigenous education, eurocentrism, trans-systemic knowledges


In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action (TRC, 2015), a school board teamed with university educators and educational partners to generate a professional learning series to support educators’ engagement with Indigenous knowledges. A research team that assembled two years later interviewed the learning series participants to explore how educators were navigating Indigenous knowledge within a Eurocentric school system.  This research acknowledges the challenges of doing this work within shifting institutional policies and initiatives, the wider politics of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations, building intercultural understandings and community partnerships, and negotiating epistemological difference. The researchers — including Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples — echoed resonances with the participants that occurred throughout the data collection process and often spoke about the parallel paths of research and schooling — both historically used as tools of colonization and now having a role in decolonization. To disrupt colonial propensities, we share our reflections as researchers, specifically around complexities and tensions of engaging Indigenous knowledges throughout our research processes concerning the participants’ experiences. By sharing the tensions and (un)learning that emerged on these parallel paths, we honour diverse entry-points and experiences to animate how trans-systemic knowledge building might ensue.

Author Biographies

Jennifer MacDonald, University of Calgary

Jennifer MacDonald is a doctoral candidate in the Werklund School of Education.  Emerging from experiences as an outdoor environmental educator, her research focuses on holistic ways of knowing and the dynamic meaning-making that can arise through lived experiences with the land.  She is also a sessional instructor of Indigenous Education.

Jennifer Markides, University of Calgary

Jennifer Markides is a doctoral candidate in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.  She is Metis, and an Indigenous educator, researcher, and activist.  Her graduate research analyzes stories told by youth who transitioned from life-in-school during the 2013 Alberta floods through a holistic lens.

Mike Holden, University of Calgary

Mike Holden is the Youth Leadership Facilitator for the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.  His research interests include teacher education, equity, and instructional design.  His professional interests include enhancing how we prepare emerging teachers and developing stronger collaborative networks between teacher educators in Canada.


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How to Cite

McDermott, M., MacDonald, J. ., Markides, J., & Holden, M. (2021). Uncovering the Experiences of Engaging Indigenous Knowledges in Colonial Structures of Schooling and Research. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 7(1), 25–44. https://doi.org/10.15402/esj.v7i1.69957

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