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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
September 28, 2016
Canadian Excellence

PhD Candidate Explores Indigegogy

Diana Norgaard, a PhD student and lecturer with the Faculty of Social Work, has been a social worker for almost 20 years. She comes from Merritt BC and lived there most of her life. Her mother is Muskogee Creek and her father is Danish. I asked her how this affected her work and she told me that it has given her a number of gifts. “I have two separate worldviews that I can claim as my own but I choose to live with the Indigenous worldview. I can walk between the two worlds and people will tell me their true thoughts and feeling about Indigenous people. I can take the best of both worlds and leave what is ugly behind.”
Diana started as a Band social worker, moved into child protection, and then on to mental health. She worked for the  provincial government as a Child and Youth Mental Health Clinician. She describes her front line work as being fun and fascinating. No day was ever boring and it was very rewarding making a difference in the lives of the people she served.
Three years ago Diana felt dissatisfied with her ability to practice social work in a way that was consistent with her Indigenous worldview and decided to apply to the MSW Aboriginal Field of Study program at Laurier. In her opinion the program “was the only one in North American that truly practiced Indigegogy.” She further states “when a student truly engages in the program it is a transformative experience”. Diana said that Laurier has “taken a real chance offering this program” and expresses her gratitude that they did. She finished her MSW and applied to the PhD program - never expecting to be accepted.
Stan Wilson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta, “coined” the term Indigegogy. He expresses it as the Indigenous way of teaching and learning. There is no hierarchy and all of life is part of a circle … a flat one. Teachers and learners are at the same level. The teacher’s main role is to introduce a topic for discussion and to share their knowledge and expertise . The knowledge and experience of all participants is acknowledged and put to use.
Diana’s work seeks to articulate Indigegogy, help others to understand the process and define which traits are necessary to employ Indigegogy in mainstream institutions. When asked to describe her research she said “When you dress up Indigegogy and take it for a walk what does it look like?”
Last year she taught Aboriginal Issues in Social Work at Renison University College in Waterloo. It was necessary to modify the course if she wanted to use an Indigegological approach. That meant setting up the classroom in a different way, use of the medicines, engaging in ceremony and the circle process and the use of reflective assignments rather than written tests to assess the students. Diana had to get the support and approval from the administration because her approach was not the Western way of teaching. Students were very receptive of the Indigegological approach.  Diana is in the process of writing about this experience.
Diana believes that Indigegogy creates better social workers; social workers who are critically reflective of their practice and able to engage in relationship at all levels: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. She believes it is her responsibility as a human being and an instructor to learn more and to share that learning.                 
One of the prophesies among her people is that when the Earth is in crisis and in need of healing the world will turn to the ways of the people, Indigenous peoples. Bringing an Indigenous worldview into academia is one way of healing the earth and ourselves.
In 2010/2011 Diana is teaching Indigenous Research Methodologies, Indigenous Knowledges and Theory and will be doing the Practicum Coordination/Advising for the AFS students.