Situating Ourselves

As Cree and Métis women, we situate ourselves within our ancestral and living communities as an authentic and community-centred practice in our scholarship. From this starting point, we begin the work of sharing Indigenous truths and connecting ideas in a good way. As a Métis scholar, Yvonne traces her known First Nations lineages from Cree, Haudenosaunee, Saulteaux, and Sioux Nations across Turtle Island since time immemorial; these lines joined more recently with those from Europe. The intertwining of these family lines formed the nation that would become her ancestors, the Métis. Their ancestral footsteps trace across eastern regions including Quebec, into the historic Red River Settlement, and scattered to lands near and far in the diaspora that followed the 1885 Resistance. More recent generations settled on the northern regions of Alberta in historic communities, some of which became Métis settlements.

Keeta brings two lines of Indigenous relations, the Sucker Creek Cree Nation and Métis ancestry reaching back to the historic homeland in the Red River Valley, to her scholarship. She also recognizes the Ehattesaht people of the Nuu Chah-Nulth, in whose territories she was raised on their unceded homelands, on an island traditionally known as Tlay Maak Tsu and now known as Esperanza, British Columbia. These nations and places inform who we are as Indigenous Peoples, scholars, and community members, and form the foundation of our work. It is with gratitude to our ancestors, the land, and those who share knowledge with us that we set out in a good way.

We engage with our ancestors through the learning, and revitalization, of Cree and Michif (Cree-Métis) words to ground our Indigenous ontological and epistemological locations. The use of ancestral languages, in both traditional and contemporary forms, provides a precision of meaning which we believe honours both the sacred purpose and the ideals of academic integrity. We work together to emphasize how the “more we assist and help each other with learning the language” (McLeod & Wolvengrey, 2016, p. xv), the stronger our collective efforts will be in redefining academic integrity. In 100 Days of Cree, author and poet Neal McLeod reminds us: “It is by a collective effort that we can bring the power of the echo of the voices of the Old Ones, and the old stories, into the contemporary age” (McLeod & Wolvengrey, 2016, p. 1). McLeod implores those who believe in the power of collectivism to engage in wîcihitok, or to ‘help one another!’ Heeding the sage advice of the Old Ones, we work together to re-vision and re-define a renewed understanding of academic integrity through the sharing of Indigenous truths and contemporary realities.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; the dictionary further defines integrity as a state of being whole and undivided. Infusing these definitions of integrity with Indigenous principles transforms academic integrity into a wholistic and inter-connected project premised on truth-telling in the academy. Through an Indigenous lens, shared beliefs held by Indigenous peoples around principles of relationality and interconnectedness represent a collectivist orientation through diverse ways of seeking and sharing knowledge (Absolon, 2010; Lindstrom, 2021; Smith, 2012; Wilson, 2001; Younging, 2018). To aid our discussion on academic integrity, we look to Opaskwayak Cree scholar Shawn Wilson (2001) who challenges mainstream approaches to decolonizing research by asserting: “A lot of people have tried to decolonize research methods … but they are deconstructing a method without looking at its underlying beliefs” (p. 177, emphasis added). We maintain that a redefinition of academic integrity similarly requires the ability to unearth and critically analyze underlying assumptions inherent in essential academic terms as a wholistic approach. To achieve our aims, we provide a brief chronological overview of the ways in which the First Peoples of Canada have sought to have their voices heard and to share their historical truths over the years. In deconstructing a mainstream understanding of academic integrity as one laden with capitalist tones and the positioning of knowledge as a form of property, we offer Indigenous principles as a re-orientation towards interconnectedness, where honesty and a sense of responsibility to one another guides teaching and learning goals.

National Truths: A Foundation for Academic Integrity

Universities are committed to the pursuit of truth and its communication to others, including students and the broader community. To do this, faculty must be free to take intellectual risks and tackle controversial subjects in their teaching, research and scholarship … For Canadians, it is important to know that views expressed by faculty are based on solid research, data and evidence, and that universities are autonomous and responsible institutions committed to the principles of integrity. (Universities Canada, 2011, para. 4)

Academic integrity has long been held as a bastion within institutions of higher learning where principles of truth and academic freedom are seen as essential pillars in a healthy democracy (Universities Canada, 2011, para. 7). Scholars Alschuler and Blimling (1995) asked “why there is so little passion about this massive assault on the highest values of the academy,” referring to a growing concern in the 1990s around breaches of academic integrity and what they perceived as a breakdown of the original values of integrity (p. 124). Seen as one of the major institutional responses to these concerns, the (now International) Center for Academic Integrity was set up in 1992 under Donald McCabe’s leadership. This organization identified values of fairness, honesty, respect, responsibility, and trust as essential values to student conduct; courage was subsequently added. It is interesting to note that while Christensen Hughes and McCabe (2006a) proposed a modified honor code system as an American-inspired solution to growing Canadian concerns around academic misconduct, this system has not found mass appeal in Canadian post-secondary institutions (Eaton, 2021). Canadian universities have continued to navigate issues surrounding academic integrity from an eclectic, often punitive and deficit-based approach, devoid of its foundational values. Commodification of post-secondary knowledge has exacerbated these issues resulting in a fragmented approach which is largely ineffective, inequitable, and inconsistent. This shift to a market-driven educational model demonstrates a bypassing of fundamental values of academic integrity as institutions of higher learning transform into industries of credential mills, knowledge malls, and grade markets.

These dominant ideals of capitalism and individualism persist as societal norms in our nation; as a result, unethical and concerning behaviours such as contract cheating, plagiarism, and false credentials arise as natural and even inevitable outcomes within these highly competitive and hierarchical systems (Crossman, 2021; Eaton, 2021; Gray, 2021; Christensen Hughes & McCabe, 2006a; Lindstrom, 2021). A consumerist ideology pervades all institutional levels, including faculty, administration, researchers, as well as students, and ultimately results in a degradation of relationships (Crossman, 2021; Gray, 2021; Kier & Hunter, 2021; Lindstrom, 2021; Sopcak & Hood, 2021). Several scholars, including Bertram Gallant, point out the “moral panic” these ethical issues raise for citizens who believe in the higher good of universities. Contemporary scholars have shifted their focus from issues of academic misconduct to critically questioning how outdated teaching and learning approaches are implicated in matters of academic integrity (Bertram Gallant, 2008; Kenny & Eaton, 2021; Peters, Fontaine, & Frenette, 2021; Gray, 2021; Christensen Hughes & McCabe, 2006b; Rossi, 2021) and how a focus on faculty and departmental responses needs to be prioritized along with opportunities for informal learning (Kenny & Eaton, 2021). These various studies reveal fundamental cracks and flaws in how teaching and learning are both enacted, and experienced, in higher learning settings.

In taking a new approach to studying academic integrity from a teaching and learning lens, Tricia Bertram Gallant (2008) advises faculty and student affairs practitioners to reframe their central question from: “‘How do we stop students from cheating?’ to ‘How do we ensure students are learning?’” (p. 6). As academic integrity scholar Sarah Eaton (2021) sees it, an over-reliance on outdated models of lectures and rote memorization has left students disengaged and removed from learning. By questioning how students are engaged in learning, these scholars have started to unearth the problematic foundations of an outdated approach to education.

To address these concerns, we draw on the principles of wholism and interconnectedness to instigate and elevate a more fulsome understanding of academic integrity within the national landscape of teaching and learning. In doing so, we honour that “[t]he Indigenous Voice is in dialogue with Oral Traditions and Traditional Knowledge—a process alive with connection and transformation” (Younging, 2018, p. 11). Taking up this endeavour, we offer the Cree term, ê-kwêskît, which, as McLeod (2016) defines it, is one way “to regain honour” (p. 9). In recognizing that mistakes are part of the human condition, the term also acknowledges that we can “turn our lives around, when we atone, then … [we] move towards regaining our honour” (p. 9–10, emphasis added). In this term resides the promise of reconciling relations through the act of learning and sharing previously untold truths as we work to rebuild ruptured relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians through a collective will and commitment to do better.

We see academic integrity, a cornerstone of education, as implicated in nation-wide efforts of decolonizing and Indigenizing, and ultimately extending to the national project of reconciliation. Decolonization being the work of critically considering western euro-centric hierarchical systems of colonization, oppression, and patriarchy, while Indigenization is the engagement of Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing as parallel and valid means of constructing systems and practices. Namely, in the decolonizing act of identifying and challenging colonial assumptions within post-secondary spaces, an ethical space is created for shared truths inclusive of Indigenous perspectives (Ermine, 2007). This work also addresses the dilemma facing post-secondaries wherein students feel betrayed when they realize they have been taught a colonially biased and incomplete curriculum.

In response to this pressing need for Canadian educational reform, a growing number of studies reveal that too often institutional and professional commitments to Indigenizing the academy do not enact the structural shifts required (Battiste, 2018; Battiste, Bell, & Findlay, 2002; Gaudry & Lorenz, 2018; Held, 2019). In looking across Canada at the number of institutions who are initiating Indigenizing strategies, we call for a fundamental re-definition of what academic integrity is, and what a possible redefinition could mean, for those of us working within postsecondary settings. As the chapter topics within this handbook reveal, there are serious fault lines in the historical foundations of mainstream Eurocentric forms of schooling. Today, a highly commercialized model of education that markets and promotes the pursuit of wealth, profit-making, and efficiencies capsizes the noble pursuit of knowledge and plunges education into issues of plagiarism, essay mills, contract cheating, counterfeit credentials, and other deeply concerning tactics. These issues arise as inevitable outcomes of a corporate-driven agenda where individual interests precede that of the common good.Footnote 1 Further, unethical behaviours afflict the nature of our relations with one another. In an uber-competitive environment where top grades and outdoing one another forms the basis of our ongoing interactions, there is little room for collaboration and mutual respect. In these troubling times, what has become evident is that a neoliberal model of education that prioritizes economic interests over moral development has raised more issues than learning outcomes (Brimble, 2016; Kezar & Bernstein-Sierra, 2016). Nor does it honour Indigenous truths and perspectives around the purpose and practice of education.

We maintain that institutional projects of decolonizing and Indigenizing the academy hold the potential to re-define what academic integrity means from a wholistic and interconnected lens of truth-telling. We ground our scholarly discussion in the recognition of ethical considerations, including truth-telling, as foundational to understanding academic integrity (Christensen Hughes & Bertram Gallant, 2016). We maintain that it is only in recent times that Canadians are awakening to the hidden truths that surround Indigenous realities. As a hopeful point of entry into this work, we see Indigenizing efforts across a number of Canadian universities as the basis from which to speak to a more inclusive and wholistic definition of academic integrity through the integration of Indigenous principles. We share how the pedagogical innovations inherent in decolonizing and reconciliatory approaches serve as markers of how educators might initiate discussions around the topic of ethics and shared values with a new generation of learners. In seeking an inclusive definition of academic integrity, we rely on Cree terminology within our discussion to expand the salient and ethical points of connection. Ultimately, we seek a wholistic redefinition of academic integrity that is challenged and deepened by the inclusion of Indigenous truths, values, and knowledge traditions that represent the truths of all Canadians.

Eurocentric Foundations: Understanding the Impacts of Neoliberalism and Capitalism in Post-secondary

As with other colonial nation-states, the contemporary focus within the scholarship of academic integrity in Canada is mired in a neoliberal model of education which reflects the colonial origins of our formalized educational systems (Battiste, Bell & Findlay, 2002; Kezar & Bernstein-Sierra, 2016; Lincoln, 2018; Schissel & Wotherspoon, 2002). Further reflecting its commonwealth origins, a largely Eurocentric definition of academic integrity appears to arise primarily from Judeo-Christian beliefs and values focused on ideals of progress, standardization, and honour codes (Bretag, 2016; Eaton & Christensen Hughes, 2021; Fishman, 2016; Thomas & Scott, 2016). In this type of system, scholars are expected to conquer, possess, and dominate knowledge within hierarchical structures that reward those who replicate and uphold the status quo.

Gaining knowledge of social justice issues, those that speak to the visibility or invisibility of structures and systems, is integral for engaging in and understanding the critical conversations that need to take place. When learners understand the systems that uphold societal inequities, they are empowered to not only name but also confront these barriers to learning. From an Indigenous perspective, Opaskwayak (Cree) scholar Greg Younging (2018) asserts that “in the past, Eurocentric knowledge has condescendingly associated Indigenous knowledge with the primitive, the wild, and the natural” making the process of intellectual domination another form of natural resource extraction (p. 111). The highly respected Maori scholar, Linda Tuhiwai Smith (2018), similarly regards the project of knowledge production within an imperialist-driven agenda to be hazardous to Indigenous knowledges. In her view: “Representation is important as a concept because it gives the impression of ‘the truth’” (p. 37). In looking to collectively redefine academic integrity with the integration of Indigenous truths, we are claiming our right as Indigenous scholars to stand as equals in the co-creation of knowledge in the academy and to assert our collective truths.

Telling Truths in the Lands Now Known as Canada

Our Indian legislation generally rests on the principle that the Aborigines are to be kept in a condition of tutelage and treated as wards or children of the state … It is clearly our wisdom and our duty, through education and other means, to prepare him [sic] for a higher civilization by encouraging him [sic] to assume the privileges and responsibilities of full citizenship. (Annual Report of the Department of the Interior, 1876)

Despite a litany of historical and ongoing challenges, including forced assimilation and Christianization, across the lands now known as Canada, our nation has been making promising strides towards reconciliation. For most non-Indigenous Canadians, the residential school stories shared by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada (2015) represent disturbing and shocking tales, ones they are often hearing for the first time. Today, Canadians are facing the atrocity of unmarked mass graves of Indigenous children unearthed in residential schoolyards. Yet, as Indigenous people can attest, these discoveries, the TRC Final Report (2015), and the 94 Calls to Action (2012) represent only the latest bid to improve relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. This recent national initiative builds on a series of earlier attempts which sought to raise mainstream awareness around Canada’s colonial history and its negative effects on the First Peoples of Canada (see, for instance, National Indian Brotherhood, 1972; Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996; United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2008). In response to the TRC Calls to Action (2012), many post-secondary institutions, including national disciplinary entities such as deans’ councils, have committed to Indigenizing and decolonizing aims thereby affirming education as key to improving relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples (Association of Canadian Deans of Education, 2010; Denzin & Spooner, 2018; Madden, 2019). For those working within higher education who are encountering dark truths and questioning previously upheld colonial assumptions, this awareness problematizes current manifestations of academic integrity.

Within a promising trend that carries the possibility of broader truth-telling, we are also cognizant that a distinct, and disturbing, pattern of raising hopes followed by failed outcomes typifies these national undertakings over the years. Moreover, this history can also be viewed as a storied way of understanding the current racial tensions and conflicts arising across Canada as steeped in a history of Indigenous distrust of non-Indigenous efforts to bring about societal change, fuelled by the frustrations of First Peoples not being heard despite continual efforts to engage in dialogue. In an attempt to foster improved relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous, we once again look to the work of Neal McLeod as he proposes a new Cree term, kwéskî-ácimowina, to epitomize stories that can result in transformative learning, referring specifically to stories “where people change their lives around’” (p. 100).

In sharing kwéskî-ácimowina as transformative truths, we begin with the story of an early attempt to address educational issues impacting learners in what was then known as “Indian Country.” This movement took form with the 1972 publication of Indian Control of Indian Education, issued by the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations), and brought a telling tale of the many ways in which mainstream education had failed Indigenous people through its imposition of a biased and colonial form of schooling which either vilified or erased the First Peoples of this land. In pointing out how this deficit in schooling had disadvantaged First Nations learners by privileging others, the Indigenous leaders set out three principles that they felt future generations should aspire to in pursuit of a good life and living as a person of moral character:

Pride encourages us to recognize and use our talents, as well as to master the skills needed to make a living

Understanding our fellowmen will enable us to meet other Canadians on an equal footing, respecting cultural differences while pooling resources for the common good.

Living in harmony with nature will insure [sic] preservation of the balance between man and his environment which is necessary for the future of our planet, as well as for fostering the climate in which Indian Wisdom has always flourished. (National Indian Brotherhood, 1972, p. 1)

Specific aspects of these principles include respect for personal freedom and others’ cultures, self-reliance, respect for nature and Indigenous wisdom, along with generosity in terms of sharing for the common good (NIB, 1972, p. 2). A significant cultural gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people was also noted by the authors and this gap was most evident in a largely irrelevant schooling curriculum and classroom teachers who lacked any knowledge of First Nations realities. Tellingly, their words ring distinctly true in our present-day: “To overcome this [gap], it is essential that Canadian children of every racial origin have the opportunity during their school days to learn about the history, customs and culture of this country's original inhabitants and first citizens” (p. 2). This historical recommendation is only now becoming manifest in some, but not all, learning institutions across our nationFootnote 2 (Kabatay & Johnson, CBC, 2019, October 2; Macdonald, 2016). Speaking to how a respectful approach to education might be realized through the integration of a full spectrum of Canadian truths, the authors noted that a blended curriculum drawing on the strengths of Indigenous and Western traditions would best support learners (p. 25). In re-imagining academic integrity as one that seeks wholism and interconnectedness as central tenets, this compelling manifesto holds key lessons around the importance of mandating Indigenous education and the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives within and across all curriculum areas as not only wholistic in nature but also as long overdue events. As history reveals, the impact of continually ignoring Indigenous counsel such as the NIB paper resulted in national turmoil such as that experienced in the Oka Crisis of 1990.

In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) released a 4000-page tome of truths that meticulously catalogued a variety of issues, including education, impacting Indigenous peoples and the severe socioeconomic inequities resulting from a colonial past. This national commission was “[b]orn of conflict, [the] RCAP was established shortly after a 78-day armed standoff —known as the Oka Crisis—between the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, the Sûreté du Québec, and the Canadian army” (Troian, CBC, March 3, 2016). In setting out terms for a fair and honourable relationship between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people of Canada, the seven commissioners concluded: “The main policy direction [of assimilation], pursued for more than 150 years, first by colonial then by Canadian governments, has been wrong” (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996, para. 7). The truth of the attempted and failed assimilation of the First Peoples of Canada stands as a foundational pillar in our call for fellow educators to adhere to a national project of truth-telling:

Successive governments have tried—sometimes intentionally, sometimes in ignorance—to absorb Aboriginal people into Canadian society, thus eliminating them as distinct peoples. Policies pursued over the decades have undermined—and almost erased—Aboriginal cultures and identities. This is assimilation. It is a denial of the principles of peace, harmony and justice for which this country stands—and it has failed. Aboriginal peoples remain proudly different. (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996, para. 9–10)

Likewise, Mikmaw educator and scholar Marie Battiste (2018) identifies attempted assimilation as the impetus behind wronged relations and one that continues today in the form of cognitive imperialism in Canadian universities. By continuing to elevate a Eurocentric curriculum as the norm for all students, the “task of decolonizing education [that] requires multilateral processes of understanding and unpacking the central assumptions of domination, patriarchy, racism, and ethnocentrisms … continue to glue the academy’s privileges in place” (Battiste, Bell & Findlay, 2002, p. 84). Without the meaningful disruption of colonial terms and the inclusion of Indigenous ways, the goals of decolonizing and Indigenizing universities will remain unattainable and academic integrity will continue to be undermined as neo-colonial motives remain unchallenged.

Calling for Renewal in Relationships

In calling for a renewed relationship, the RCAP commissioners articulated a set of principles based on a robust set of data, including 178 public hearings, 96 community visits, multiple expert consultations, several commissioned research studies, alongside a thorough review of current and historical documentation (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996, para. 5). The following four principles are re-presented here at length in the spirit of reframing academic integrity as conceptually grounded in a wholistic and interconnected project of truth-telling.

Recognition: The principle of mutual recognition calls on non-Aboriginal Canadians to recognize that Aboriginal people are the original inhabitants and caretakers of this land and have distinctive rights and responsibilities flowing from that status. It calls on Aboriginal people to accept that non-Aboriginal people are also of this land now, by birth and by adoption, with strong ties of love and loyalty. It requires both sides to acknowledge and relate to one another as partners, respecting each other’s laws and institutions and co-operating for mutual benefit.

Respect: The principle of respect calls on all Canadians to create a climate of positive mutual regard between and among peoples. Respect provides a bulwark against attempts by one partner to dominate or rule over another. Respect for the unique rights and status of First Peoples, and for each Aboriginal person as an individual with a valuable culture and heritage, needs to become part of Canada’s national character.

Sharing: The principle of sharing calls for the giving and receiving of benefits in fair measure. It is the basis on which Canada was founded, for if Aboriginal peoples had been unwilling to share what they had and what they knew about the land, many of the newcomers would not have lived to prosper. The principle of sharing is central to the treaties and central to the possibility of real equality among the peoples of Canada in the future.

Responsibility: Responsibility is the hallmark of a mature relationship. Partners in such a relationship must be accountable for the promises they have made, accountable for behaving honourably, and accountable for the impact of their actions on the well-being of the other. Because we do and always will share the land, the best interests of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people will be served if we act with the highest standards of responsibility, honesty and good faith toward one another. (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996, para. 66–69)

In 2016, Canada formally adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a basis for recognizing the inherent rights of the First Peoples of Canada. The late adoption of this international covenant is not without its own story of resistance and racism here in Canada, exposing the colonial undertones of our nation-state, as national leaders debated the extent to which individual and collective rights could, or should, be equally recognized.

In the spirit of kwéskî-ácimowina, we ask readers to reflect on these Indigenous-led attempts to raise mainstream awareness of colonial injustices. Today, the horrific truths surrounding Indian Residential Schools are being amplified by the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015). Some educational groups, such as Facing History and Ourselves, point out that the impelling force behind the formation of the TRC was “[b]ecause of the massive lawsuit it faced, the government was almost forced to focus on the Indian Residential Schools, and [in response] it set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2008 to address those issues” (Facing History, Truth and Reconciliation, para. 1). From a social justice lens, it is revealing that the TRC arose only under threat of legal repercussions following another lengthy period of ignoring, or ignorance, of Indigenous ways. In setting out principles for moving forward, the TRC identified the need for all Canadians to recognize inherent Indigenous rights to self-determination, the exposing of colonial harms, the redressing of colonial harms at individual, leadership, and government levels, and finally the need for accountability within these areas. These principles comprise the foundations for respectful and ethical relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people moving forward; yet, as the recent backlash against the protests and community support for Indigenous and Black Lives Matter movements reveals, much work remains to be done.

Looking back at these moments in time, each has worked in some way to increase societal awareness around Indigenous realities yet it is also obvious that the same messages have been delivered time and again. If the act of telling truths, including Indigenous truths, is central to a reconfiguration of academic integrity focused on asking, “How do we ensure students are learning the full spectrum of truths?,” then these historical initiatives should be viewed as foundational lessons in this work. In seeking to right the wrongs of a colonial past, those working within higher education—from faculty, students, to administration—are now being asked to confront previously unquestioned colonial assumptions that comprise the field of academic integrity. The consideration and inclusion of Indigenous principles and values within our institutions of higher learning holds the potential to re-define academic integrity from a more wholistic understanding replete with multiple truths and perspectives. Alternatively, we can wait for history and the inevitable lashback to repeat itself.

Decolonizing and Indigenizing As Forms of Academic Integrity

In a promising shift from multiple failed attempts to include Indigenous perspectives in the past, many post-secondary institutions, including national groups such as deans’ councils, have recently announced their commitment to reconciliation through the formal adoption of Indigenizing and decolonizing goals. Several of these efforts preceded the TRC Calls to Action and “[t]hrough a process known as [I]ndigenization, many universities are making a conscious effort to bring [i]ndigenous people, as well as their philosophies and cultures, into strategic plans, governance roles, academics, research and recruitment” (MacDonald, 2016, para. 4). By affirming education as the key to improving relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, these higher learning institutes are responding to the need for inclusion of Indigenous truths in the academy and, by extension, into the field of academic integrity. At the same time, “[p]robably the most complex, and contentious, aspect of [I]ndigenization is what it means for curricula, pedagogy and research…” (MacDonald, 2016, para. 10).

Over the years, Indigenous scholars have argued that decolonization, where critical examinations of power, privilege, and positionality are the basis for unlearning and examining colonially biased curriculum, form a precursor to the work of Indigenization (Battiste, 2013; George, 2019; Poitras Pratt, Louie, Hanson & Ottmann, 2018). The work of decolonization is one that applies to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners as together we work to understand how a colonial past has impacted the lives of all Canadians. In specific terms, “Decolonizing education entails identifying how colonization has impacted education and [how it is] working to unsettle colonial structures, systems, and dynamics in educational contexts” (Poitras Pratt et al., 2018, p. x). Through these efforts, Canadians have been asked to face the ways in which Indigenous peoples have suffered at the hands of colonial powers and how these neocolonial injustices continue today. As a precursor to Indigenization, the work of decolonization requires a willingness to sit in the discomfort of hard truths including how a colonial system has granted unearned benefits to many through the removal of resources, rights, and opportunities from Indigenous Peoples. Importantly, awareness is not enough as knowing better implicates doing better. As the Final Report from the TRC (2015) sets out, educators are asked to actively counter injustices through targeted action. It is also the case, as George (2019) asserts, that “[e]xploring Indigenous perspectives on reconciliation and decolonization often leaves me wondering if post-secondary institutions in Canada are willing and capable to effectively decolonize their own institutions because it means sacrificing privilege, power, and control” (p. X). As academic institutions that seek and share knowledge and truth as their raison d’être, universities are inherently implicated in the reproduction, or the unsettling, of how we ethically situate ourselves. In an ideal world, an increased level of awareness would prompt the deliberate and strategic prioritization of Indigenous perspectives in post-secondary settings. Here, the principles of academic integrity could be realized for all.

Despite undoubtedly good intentions, some commentators have noted that the onus for Indigenizing efforts tends to rest primarily on Indigenous scholars who have been recruited into what remains largely colonial institutions (Gaudry & Lorenz, 2018). By asking Indigenous scholars and staff members to make substantive change within the academy without considering what is required at a structural level to implement these shifts, post-secondaries are offering token gestures rather than true commitment to reconciliation. For those who have been assigned leadership roles in implementing Indigenizing effort in post-secondary institutions, the reconciliatory burden may be far too much for one person to manage, particularly given mounting pressures to enact change rapidly within an environment that holds no certainties (Gladue, 2021). One might even argue that the situation represents an ethical transgression if post-secondaries are not willing to invest the time, resources, and authority required to propel and sustain substantive changes in their respective houses of learning.

Another concerning and enduring truth that surrounds post-secondary institutions is the extent to which issues of inequities and racism persist in higher learning environments, particularly in the realities of how Indigenous students and faculty members are unfairly treated (Bailey, 2016; Henry et al., 2017; Mohamed & Beagan, 2019). As Senator Murray Sinclair points out to those who are willing to listen, colonial schooling systems that deliberately advanced the vilification and erasure of Indigenous peoples serve as the primary source of contemporary racism against Indigenous peoples. It might be argued that these injustices continue unabated due in large part to mainstream unknowingness, or what some term a pedagogy of ignorance, around Indigenous issues (Anwaruddin, 2015; Zembylas, 2005). This state of unknowing reflects the success of a colonial system that deliberately rendered Indigenous peoples invisible and voiceless but also signals the real outcomes of continuing to ignore Indigenous calls for reform.

It may also be the case that mainstream Canadians fear a loss of power and privilege in acknowledging the injustices that surround the lives of Indigenous peoples (DiAngelo, 2011; Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2017; St Denis, 2007). We have only to recall former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s denial of Canada’s colonial past, and Senator Beyak’s more recent assertion that racism does not exist in Canada, to bear witness to how deeply entrenched mainstream resistance is to the hard truths of our nation’s colonial past and present. And for those who may believe that resistance to Indigenous truths resides only in the political corridors of Canadian society, the comments section that follows any Indigenous media releases by our public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), reveals how widespread and deeply held the racist attitudes are across our oft-lauded “peaceable and tolerant” nation. Only recently have we seen Canadians willing to listen to how these lands and the original peoples have been exploited and mistreated since contact. In the midst of this admittedly complicated and difficult learning, the question of how academic integrity is defined within institutes of higher learning is central to the discussion of how we might ethically build and repair relationships with one another. But how do we disrupt the historical trend of ignoring and opposing Indigenous truths when apathy and opposition reify a mainstream investment in maintaining the status quo? And how do we engage others in the task of redefining academic integrity when post-secondaries are still struggling to deliver curriculum inclusive of shared colonial truths?

In seeking further inspiration around how we might work to redefine academic integrity, we look to the work of Smith (2012) whose work in decolonizing research has been highly influential and far-reaching. A series of 25 Indigenous projects arising from community research programmes and community-identified needs are grouped under themes of survival, self-determination, and control as central aims. More recent attempts by Indigenous peoples to speak to the responsibilities of the academy with specific reference to research and academic integrity include the First Nations Ethics Guide on Research, Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (Assembly of First Nations, 2009); Elements of Indigenous Style (Younging, 2018), and Research is Ceremony (Wilson, 2008). These publications highlight the ways in which ethical considerations within Indigenous research can inform, contribute, and connect to the scholarship of teaching and learning with integrity.

In further promising initiatives, including The Seven Grandfathers in Academic Integrity, a two-page pamphlet issued by the University of Toronto, and the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Academic Integrity multimodal resource, we see that Indigenous scholars are taking up the work of troubling the supremacy of neo-liberal western ethical and moral considerations of integrity in the academy. These parallel ways of expressing and centering truth are essential to the work of redefining academic integrity for all because they challenge the oft (consciously or unconsciously) held belief that western axiology and ethics are the pinnacle and definition of truth in academic culture. Additionally, these Indigenized resources seek to honour Indigenous paradigms, while also providing a basis for others to question the consumerist models which currently veil expectations of integrity in our institutions. This new foundation acknowledges Indigenous ways, honours Indigenous rigour, and validates the dedication to the caretaking of knowledge that is part of the unquestionably valuable and ancient inheritance of Indigenous traditions, languages, ceremonies, stories and practices. We bring forward this expansive knowledge to the academy as a transformative and reconciliatory way forward, provided that the academy is open and committed to ethical relations where the historical pattern of turning a blind eye to Indigenous truths that has caused harm and disconnection is ended.

As we see it, Indigenous knowledge/traditions must be acknowledged when post-secondaries take up Indigenizing and decolonizing practices/policies with respect to interrelatedness, interconnectedness, and wholistic ways. Again, the answer may rest in our willingness and ability to trouble the status quo, a social hierarchy of inequities that serves to subjugate some and provide power to others, in what we recognize as a neoliberal and capitalist-driven system that is showing signs of failing its own ideals.

Re-defining Academic Integrity Through Indigenous Values and Traditions

Indigenous perspectives highlight wholistic truths and the reality of our interconnectedness that could rightly form the basis of a new definition of academic integrity. In this section we bring forward Indigenous paradigms and principles which elucidate previously unexplored dimensions of academic integrity in the academy. In doing so, we align our understandings of academic integrity with the fundamental principles of Indigenous research methodologies that Smith (2012) shares: “Indigenous knowledge… has values and principles about human behaviour and ethics, about relationships, about wellness and leading a good life… knowledge has beauty and can make the world beautiful if used in a good way” (Smith, 2012, p. 161). By reconnecting to collectivist values that prioritize a sense of shared humanity, the spaces of learning and teaching can be transformed. What is transformative in this approach is the privileging of a sense of interconnectedness and community which empowers learners and educators alike to take positive risks and move into shared ethical spaces of knowledge creation. We explore the possibilities of this re-defined concept of academic integrity through the three central and interconnected principles of relationality, reciprocity and respect.Footnote 3


From an Indigenous perspective: “relationships do not merely shape reality, they are reality” (Wilson, 2008, p. 7). Relationships are integral to our identities, communities, and the ways in which we navigate the world around us. Relationships serve as the connective tissue of the living organisms that are our societies, communities and the universe; it is good relations that allow us to function in a healthy, whole and undivided way. Relationships are complicated, they are not simple nor unchanging, and it is this inherent complexity which is also their strength. In considering relationality as a core concept within a discussion focused on academic integrity, we also acknowledge that, in the context of the academy, relationships encounter power dynamics, navigate ever-evolving circumstances, and bump up against highly individualistic tendencies. In truth, a collective orientation within learning and teaching environments is counterintuitive when matters of competitive grading, awards, and scholarships are those which learners, and educators, aspire to, within the current mainstream learning model. Yet, centralizing relationships is integral to the survivance, continuity and thriving of Indigenous Peoples and form the basis to our wholeness, knowledges, and integrity. The same could be said for all our relations.

Speaking to the challenge of navigating the realities of academia via the power of relationships, we bring the Cree concept of manâcihitowin advanced by Cree scholar McLeod and language-holder Arok Wolvengrey (2016) wherein “‘respect; [is] where you think of someone highly without regard for yourself … we could use this as a term for ethics” (p. 178). The priority here is the communal and not the individual which ultimately speaks to the work of creating ethical spaces founded in academic integrity. Adopting relationality as a core value creates space for moving beyond the limits of an individualist approach and into the possibilities of a communally-informed academy (Donald, 2012). When we invoke the power of the collective in knowledge creation and sharing activities, we honour that “perhaps the single most important precept of the Indigenous world view is the notion that the world is alive, conscious, and flowing with knowledge and energy” (Younging, 2018, p. 114). We challenge our fellow educators to think about the possibilities of such a shift and how we might re-imagine the highly individualistic and hierarchical structure of learning where only a select few are recognized and rewarded. In a collective undertaking, benefits and responsibilities are equally shared by all in an ethos of ethical relationality and reciprocity.


To make space for the expansion of academic integrity with Indigenous truths, we invite you to engage in kâ-pê-isi-kiskêyihtahk iyinitowiyiniw-kiskêyihtamowin, or what McLeod (2016) explains is “the process of coming to know Indigenous Knowledge” (McLeod & Wolvengrey, 2016, p. 177). Within Indigenous models of teaching and learning all individuals are asked by the community to identify and serve their role in community. Collectivist pursuits of survival and flourishing are predicated on each member contributing to the whole. Thus the underpinning of the communities’ relationships is respect. Respect for the work and role of each member as they strive towards your survival, your flourishing, your wholeness, wellness and equity. Indigenous peoples respect the knowledge that is being caretaken as it flows forward through time, the individuals who do the work of carrying this knowledge, and those who are new learners of the knowledge, who will someday take their place. This is, of course, the cycle of teaching and learning, and as the interconnectedness of this respect is learned and shared, ethical space is formed.


The principle of respect is one that resides at the heart of reciprocity. When we recognize that “inherent in this commitment to the people is the understanding of the reciprocity of life and accountability to one another” (Hart, 2010, p. 9), we are moving from an individualistic pursuit of wealth, power, and prestige to considering those parameters that comprise collective wellness and wholeness. Reciprocity imbues us with a sense of responsibility, and as Indigenous peoples, this means we see ourselves as a link between past and future generations where our “responsibilities [are] connected to internal cultural imperatives, which include telling the truth, honesty with one another, mindfulness of impacts on the community, and mindfulness of continuity with history and heritage” (Younging, 2018, p. 18). We maintain these ethical commitments are universally shared values comprising the best of humanity.

Looking Ahead Seven Generations

In calling for a new definition of academic integrity where disparate worldviews encounter one another in a shared and ethical space, our hope is that we will build a shared understanding of what academic integrity could be, and indeed should be, within higher learning settings. We see a renewal of what academic integrity means arising from deep reflections on self and positionality, questioning how we interact with fellow citizens, and expressing itself most convincingly through ethical actions that serve the common good. We ask faculty members, as representatives of our institutions, if they are willing and prepared to engage with the entire spectrum of truths that are held by the complex nation of Canada. And more, are faculty, students, administrators, and researchers ready to acknowledge the validity and importance of other ways of knowing? We believe the onus for academic integrity resides with the institution, particularly faculty and administration who lead, design, and deliver appropriate content and effective pedagogical design. In other words, if education is viewed as the pursuit of truth, or more appropriately truths, then it is essential to expand the current definition of academic integrity to include Indigenous principles, truths, and perspectives across all institutional areas.

Working from an intersecting definition of integrity that is centred in wholism and interconnectedness, we invite fellow Indigenous scholars and the wider academic community into a shared ethical space to help us redefine these critical underpinnings of education (Held, 2019). To ensure ethically grounded and open discussions around what academic integrity entails, we must first be willing to engage in critical conversations such as those focused on problematizing the current neoliberal and commercialized approaches to education where commercial interests in teaching and learning mean academic misconduct runs rampant. If not commerce, what foundation should education then claim in the name of integrity? We offer a whole-minded values-driven approach where a biodiversity of knowledges flourishes and embraces alternative ways of knowing. It follows that institutional academic integrity could then be assessed on the extent to which Indigenous truths and principles are respectfully integrated into mainstream structures as equal paradigms of thought. This chapter is an invitation for others to join us in renewing relationships, with integrity, for the wellbeing of all our relations.

Points of Consideration

  • Indigenization and decolonization are integral practices of academic integrity that all citizens need to embrace.

  • Integrity demands that newcomers/settlers/colonizers instigate acts of atonement and actions of reconciliation which serve to intentionally disrupt the historical cycle of ignoring the injustices visited upon the First Peoples of Canada (Regan, 2010; TRC, 2015).

  • Indigenous paradigms and practices provide a way forward for the academy to choose to re-center wholistic, respectful, reciprocal, and relational forms of academic integrity, but only if these ways of knowing and the scholarship which supports them are themselves treated with integrity.