While Aurora College is in the process of transforming into a polytechnic university, it is laying the groundwork for the establishment of an Indigenous Knowledge Holders Council.
“The main reason for this new council is really to have a helper or calls to become increasingly more effective and efficient and better positioned to identify and respond to the needs of Indigenous and Northern residents,” said Dr. Angela James, special advisor to the president of Aurora College.
Although representatives have yet to be appointed, the 13-member body shows that Aurora College is paying tribute, honour and respect to Indigenous peoples, according to James.
The council, one of three bodies that will make up the new tri-cameral governance structure, is the first of its kind to appear in a post-secondary institution in Canada.
“Most colleges and universities have Indigenous advisory councils made up of Elders and they provide advice and their guidance to their leadership team,” said James, “but not like the new Aurora College Indigenous Knowledge Holders Council, which will play an important role in governance and decision-making, and we will be at the table when that happens.”
She added that the council will act as another level of fulfilling many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, as well as serve as an act of respect.
The council was supposed to be established in September, but due to severe wildfires in NWT during the late summer, it was delayed to a new estimated date of March 2024.
James unveiled some plans for next year upon its establishment. The council will focus on the development of strategic direction and operational items to teach Indigenous students to gather knowledge in an Indigenous people’s way, and it will promote positive education leaders who foster the success of Indigenous students and staff, she explained.
With the Aurora College Act, James added that the council will oversee the success of Indigenous students and staff while recognizing the histories of Indigenous peoples along with worldviews, cultures and traditions.
“When they do get established, their first job is to sit on the land on their priorities and what their mandate items are and put it all into a framework,” James said, “and that framework will allow them to set those priorities and then bring recommendations to the board of governors — then decisions are made at that level.”
While the college has not yet finished transforming into a polytechnic university, she said that the council will be in place while that is happening, and the Indigenous body will make sure that all precursor work is done before the transformation is set in place for the new academic institution by 2025.
“It will really place a strong emphasis on integrating Indigenous knowledge, worldviews, traditions, and representation in the new polytechnic university,” she said.