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Indigenous Education Month spotlight: Dallas Fiddler

“I want to help build a support system of people who have faced and overcome many of the same barriers as other Indigenous students,” says Fiddler.

November 15, 2018


November is Indigenous Education Month. Throughout this month, OISE News will be profiling Indigenous people from the OISE community who are doing work in Indigenous education. Through these conversations, we’ll explore the question: ‘How can Indigenous education advance justice for Indigenous peoples?’

Today, we chat with Dallas Fiddler, a Research Projects Coordinator and Indigenous Community Liaison with Professor Jeffrey Ansloos’ Research Lab at OISE. Fiddler is from Treaty 6 Territory Waterhen Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Fiddler has a long history of advocacy work and a clear passion for supporting Indigenous students in higher education.

“One of the many reasons why I do this work is to try and make it easier for Indigenous students to succeed in higher education institutions,” he says. “I want to help build a support system of people who have faced and overcome many of the same barriers as other Indigenous students.”

What is Indigenous education for you?

For me, Indigenous education involves recognizing, understanding, and respecting Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Within this definition, Indigenous education can be expressed in many forms. My work lies primarily in advocacy and is focused on increasing representation and amplifying the voices of Indigenous people in higher education.

Tell us about your work in Indigenous education.

While I was I completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Saskatchewan, I was part of a student group that represented 2,200 plus First Nations, Métis and Inuit students. My primary role was to advocate for Indigenous students and I often acted as a liaison in helping them address problems they were facing on campus. For example, if a student had a problem with a professor, or needed guidance on accessing mental health resources, they would often come to our group for assistance.

What brought you to this work? 

Growing up, I attended both First Nations run schools and provincially-run schools. First Nations run schools on reserves are funded by the federal government and receive considerably less funding than provincially-run schools—creating a disparity that places significant barriers on Indigenous students’ educational success.

In grade 11 I knew I wanted to attend university. Due to the lack of resources on reserve, I left my community to attend a provincially-run school an hour away from home so I could take the classes required for university entry.

Experiencing the disparities between the two schools made me want to advocate for change. This manifested itself through helping Indigenous students navigate the university so they could have equal opportunities for success.

Can you share with us a person, experience or thing that has contributed to your commitment in doing this work?

During my time in university, I noticed that many of my Indigenous peers were the first in their family to attend a post-secondary institution. I was fortunate in that my mom had attended university, and she acted as a mentor to me when it came to writing papers and completing assignments.

Realizing that a lot of my peers did not have the same opportunities led me to my role as an advocate. I felt that I had a duty to support Indigenous students who otherwise did not have a support system or role model to look to within their family. Having a mentor or someone to help you navigate the institution can have a huge impact on your educational experience.

What do you hope this work will achieve?

I want to ensure that Indigenous students feel supported and welcomed when attending institutions. There is a place for our knowledge here and Indigenous students can contribute enormously to research. I also hope my work inspires students to give back to their communities—a sentiment widely shared among Indigenous students.


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