Transitioning to ‘Indigenous’ terminology

Board & Committees, Programs

The Vancouver School Board has adopted a new name for one of its departments, some job titles, and even one of its schools to better reflect respect for Indigenous people and culture. At the urging of the newly named Indigenous Education Department, the VSB is changing its terminology from ‘Aboriginal’ to ‘Indigenous.’

“Aboriginal is a general term that refers in Canada to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, but it is not widely used in the rest of the world,” says Chas Desjarlais, district vice principal of Indigenous education. “The term indigenous is used more internationally, such as in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

VSB has taken this step proactively, even though there has been no official direction from the Ministry of Education to school districts. The term ‘Indigenous’ is growing in use at post-secondary institutions and by provincial and federal governments, but only one other school district in BC, Delta, has formally made the change to date.

“We’re proud that VSB is showing leadership by changing to terminology preferred by Indigenous people,” adds Desjarlais.

There are some official documents that VSB cannot rename immediately, such as the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement (AEEA), which can only be officially changed by the Ministry of Education. As well, references to ‘Aboriginal’ in documents such as collective agreements cannot officially be changed until those agreements are renegotiated. VSB has promised to make further amendments to terminology from ‘Aboriginal’ to ‘Indigenous’ when possible.

At the meeting of the Vancouver Board of Education on December 18, the Board unanimously agreed to name changes for the following: 

Current name

New Name

Xpey’ Aboriginal Focus School

Xpey’ Indigenous Focus School

Aboriginal Education Department

Indigenous Education Department

District Vice-Principal of Aboriginal Education

District Vice-Principal of Indigenous Education

Aboriginal Education Consultant

Indigenous Education Consultant

Aboriginal Education Cultural Coordinator

Indigenous Education Cultural Coordinator

Aboriginal Education Enhancement Teachers (AEETs)

Indigenous Education Teachers (IETs)

Aboriginal Education Enhancement Workers (AEEWs)

Indigenous Education Workers (IEWs)

Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement Implementation and Monitoring Committee (AEEA I&M)

Indigenous Education Advisory Committee (IEAC)

The new names will start appearing soon on VSB documents, websites, signage, and other places to reflect the new terminology.