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Edmonton Catholic Schools

Name Change of Aboriginal Learning Services to Indigenous Learning Services


The Council of Elders meets periodically with the Board of Trustees and me to review and discuss relevant cultural teachings.  During a recent meeting, the Council of Elders requested a name change of the department of Aboriginal Learning Services to Indigenous Learning Services. 

The term Indigenous came into wide usage during the 1970s when Aboriginal groups organized transnationally and pushed for greater presence in the United Nations ("UN").  In the UN, "Indigenous" is used to refer broadly to peoples of long settlement and connection to specific lands who have been adversely affected by incursions by industrial economies, displacement, and settlement of their traditional territories by others.  Further, Indigenous legal scholar S. James Anaya offers this description: "Today, the term indigenous refers broadly to the living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others.  Indigenous peoples, nations, or communities are culturally distinctive groups that find themselves engulfed by settler societies born of the forces of empire and conquest."

According to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Peoples have a right to cultural sovereignty and self-determination.  Educational institutions include the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in their curriculum, including teacher training.

Previously, the Indigenous population may have been referred to as:

Aboriginal - The descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people — Indians, Métis and Inuit. These are three separate peoples with unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.

First Nations – The term "First Nations" came into use in 1970 to replace the word "Indian"; although the term First Nation is widely used, no legal definition of it exists.  This term generally does not include Inuit or Metis.

Native - meaning, "born in," the term "native Canadian" could also legitimately apply to anyone born in Canada.  Native was derived from Latin natus meaning "born," which is used to mean a group who lived in some place before the arrival of Europeans and eventually evolved to replace the word Indian.

Indian - In 1493 Columbus sent a letter home identifying the folks he met as "Los Indios", the term "Indian" has been applied to the first occupants of the Americas.  It is laden with history and associations, and some argue the whole notion of "Indian" is purely a white man's construction.  Exceptions for use of this term such as Indian Act (federal statute) and Indian Reserve (defined in the Indian Act), until such changes are made in the legal documents.

As a world, we are growing in understanding and principles.  Collectively, we are righting wrongs and moving forward towards a more enlightened, educated and level of awareness that was not possible until this time.  As such, we continue to move forward collectively making conscious and enlightened changes. 

Edmonton Catholic School District is one of the most forward thinking educational institutions in Canada and we pride ourselves in our ability to continually reflect progressive educational growth and awareness.

Thus, the Edmonton Catholic School District will honour the request from the Council of Elders and effective May 1, 2017 will respectfully change the name of Aboriginal Learning Services to Indigenous Learning Services.