Aug. 3, 2022

Calgary Foundation makes largest-ever gift to UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy

$1-million gift will help advance strategy’s major goals
University of Calgary campus
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, has received a $1-million gift from the Calgary Foundation — the largest single gift the strategy has received to date.

The investment is an affirmation of the work the strategy has completed up to this point, says Dr. Michael Hart, PhD, UCalgary’s vice-provost and associate vice-president research (Indigenous engagement).

“That an outside entity like the Calgary Foundation is recognizing the important, impactful work being completed suggests that we’re a model for others, and that people believe in the work we’re doing,” says Hart.

Michael Hart

Dr. Michael Hart

Travis Dickie

The funds will contribute to advancing ii’ taa’poh’to’p’s goals, creating ongoing change in the UCalgary community and beyond.

“This gift helps us move forward in each of our ways of knowing, doing, being and connecting, and it helps us move in a very targeted manner, quicker than we would have been able to move before,” says Hart. “In the long term, it will help us to address matters directly related to Indigenous peoples, as well as support others to recognize the contributions that Indigenous people have made, are making and will be making.”

The Calgary Foundation was impressed with the work of the Indigenous Strategy and the effect it has had on the wider community, says Foundation board member Sherry Ferronato, chair of its Major and Signature Grants Committee.

“UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy is having a transformational impact on the entire organization and many other people, groups and systems associated with it,” says Ferronato. “UCalgary is strengthening relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities, working together to build knowledge and understanding.”

The gift also aligns with ongoing work being undertaken by the foundation as an organization with the goals of working towards reconciliation, strengthening its relationships with Indigenous communities and impacting meaningful long-term change in the community.

“The Calgary Foundation has worked diligently to take meaningful strides in our reconciliation journey by examining, changing and improving how we approach our work,” says Ferronato. “In this way, clear alignment exists between the Calgary’s Foundation’s goals and those of University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy.”

Sherry Ferronato

Sherry Ferronato

Courtesy of Sherry Ferronato

One of the strategy’s recommendations to achieve those goals is the Indiginization of curricula across the university. Drawn from a direct call to action in the Final Report on Truth and Reconciliation, it’s an important shift for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the UCalgary community.

“In order for incoming students to recognize the contributions of Indigenous people and for Indigenous learners to see themselves in the curriculum, we need to include Indigenous content,” says Hart. “The way we do that is including perspectives of Traditional Knowledge Keepers and facilitating reviews and support that help the faculties and units look at how they’re moving forward with bringing in Indigenous content. The impact in the long run is better understanding of Indigenous peoples by non-Indigenous people, Indigenous learners seeing themselves and their own ideas in the curriculum, and stronger, more respectful relationships between people.”

Funds will also be dedicated towards other ii’ taa’poh’to’p initiatives including: widening pathways to education for Indigenous students entering university; strengthening connections between Elders and students; supporting and encouraging leaders in Indigenous engagement; preserving oral traditions, systems and processes; and developing physical acknowledgement and recognition on campus.

“Once complete, these projects will contribute to the reshaping of our communities so that we are more interconnected and have more people participating in this work,” says Hart. “Indigenous engagement through our strategy really emphasizes us walking together, walking in parallel ways and respecting one another where we’re at.”

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, 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.