A wiigwaam [weeg-wahm] is the traditional dwelling of the Anishinaabeg people, the original inhabitants of the Ottawa region. A wiigwaam frame is constructed of arched poles, tied together to form a domed structure. The frame of a wiigwaam has both vertical and horizontal elements in the form of structural poles and stabilizing hoops. An Anishinaabeg teaching compares a healthy community to a wiigwaam. The vertical poles represent individuals in the community, as they maintain autonomy at the base yet gain their stability from their connection at the top. The values and goals of the group are represented by the hoop poles, as they encircle the community and support the structure.
uOttawa’s Indigenous Action Plan is organized according to this teaching—the community will be supported by the goals and values outlined in this document. For the structure to be strong and functional, each vertical pole must individually support its share of the weight and, at the same time, the strength and stability comes from the framework’s hoops.
The University of Ottawa is engaging in the process of Indigenization by learning from and working with Indigenous worldviews. This will be achieved by creating a connected community in which all faculties and service areas cooperate to integrate Indigenous worldviews into their activities, while maintaining open communication and mutual support.
The University’s Indigenous Action Plan weaves throughout all sectors of the University—faculties, departments, student services, staff and student organizations, and the senior administration. Working together in this manner, Indigenous knowledge and traditions can be appropriately integrated and infused into the University, as interconnectivity is a cornerstone of an Indigenous worldview. The implementation process will enrich all areas of our university, highlight the diversity and depth of Indigenous knowledge and promote Indigenous methods, theoretical traditions and pedagogies.
Effective communication with internal and external University stakeholders is key to making uOttawa’s Indigenous Action Plan a success. The first step was the creation of this framework by Indigenous Affairs and the Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs, in consultation with the Indigenous Education Council and local Indigenous communities, and feedback from Indigenous student associations.