“It is an honour to be recognized by (CATE). My research sought to address how colonial logics are taught and maintained through school curricula, national narratives, public memory and Canadian culture,” says Howell. “This is a matter of vital concern, as many educators feel ill-equipped to teach about the significances of treaties, land nor ongoing oppression imposed on Indigenous Peoples by the Canadian state.”
Howell realized early in her teaching career that her own knowledge of Indigenous-Canadian history and relations was lacking. With her students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, she started unlearning the history she was taught, which dramatically shifted her perspectives and ignited a passion for research and activism.
Societal transformation through education
The common thread in Howell’s work is a belief in the transformative power of education. Her research shows, however, that learning about Indigenous peoples is not enough.
“My findings suggest that teacher education and professional learning that provide educators with extensive opportunities to learn from and with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples rather than about them are crucial,” Howell argues. “If they don’t, there is a significant possibility that teacher education and professional learning, as most frequently offered, will not manifest in the transformational change that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for.”
For Howell, a part-time professor in the Teacher Education program at uOttawa, responding to the calls to action means much more than implementing curricula and providing learning resources in schools across Canada.
“In the next 25 years, I hope to see uOttawa strengthen its commitment to working with Indigenous scholars, students, communities, and allies to enact structural change...”
— (PhD ’22)
"When I began my studies at uOttawa 25 years ago, I was newly married with a small child, living in Sandy Hill. uOttawa was a five-minute walk away, and this made it possible for me to pursue my degree and raise a family," explains Howell. "I've stayed at uOttawa because of the relationships I've developed with generous and brilliant students, scholars, researchers, and colleagues who I continuously learn with and from."
Howell adds "In the next 25 years, I hope to see uOttawa strengthen its commitment to working with Indigenous scholars, students, communities, and allies to enact structural change to disrupt performative Indigenization. Substantive, relational, and sustainable Indigenization requires structural change across faculties and administration on an ongoing basis that is both rigorous and ethical."
Image note: Howell selected the principal photo of the Kichi Zibi (Ottawa) River for its significance as a place where she says "I have done a lot of learning alongside Anishinaabe people."