Native Studies Course Requirement- University of Alberta
Who we are
The NSCR Group is a student led initiative advocating for the implementation of a Native Studies course requirement for all students in undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs at the University of Alberta. We are concerned with not only making space for Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching in the academy, but centering Indigenous perspectives in the delivery of these courses. Not only are these courses important for the education of future settler or immigrant professionals who need to understand past and contemporary relations between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people, and the history of colonization and genocide that is the basis of Canadian history, these courses are important for Indigenous students; the university must work towards an education that is not functioning to assimilate Indigenous students like colonial institutions have done repeatedly in the past, and it is important that campus is a safe place to learn and teach and there are many students holding onto racist attitudes, stereotypes, and narratives that can impact their relations with Indigenous students, visiting lecturers, Elders, and faculty, that could be dispelled through education and relationship building.
Required Indigenous courses is an opportunity to not only educate Canadians about indigenous peoples but to also empower indigenous peoples. Indigenous populations and communities are extremely un healthy, without understanding the historical relationship of indigenous and settlers we continue the same narrative. A narrative made to assimilate, eradicate and isolate indigenous peoples. The aims of required indigenous courses is not to create pity for indigenous students and people but to work towards creating healthier communities on and off campus. With proper education of protocol of traditional knowledge, people can learn to respect sacred culture. Required Indigenous courses would be one factor of empowerment that could potentially deflect prejudice and ultimately prove that Canadians believe in reconciliation and that indigenous rights and people matter.
As a settler student occupying Indigenous territory I feel it is imperative for me to learn about the history of this land and the First Nations whose ways of knowing and being, governance and law existed here long before the imposition of colonial systems. It is impossible for me to attain a complete education if these histories are omitted, and I feel it is equally impossible for me to gain a well rounded perspective without the instruction of Indigenous professors and leaders in the academic community. Their omission is more than symbolic of ongoing colonial hegemony, and it is oppressive to Indigenous people in the academy who have to “settle” for a colonial education. At the very least, it is the University of Alberta’s responsibility to ensure that every student takes a Native Studies Course Requirement, to respect the importance of listening, learning, and relationship building, and to respect Indigenous staff, students, and Indigenous ways of teaching and learning as legitimate, equal, and important. These courses are just as essential if not more so than other courses included in undergraduate requirements. There is no “reconciliation” without real change. If it is metaphoric, it is useless to any kind of future other than a further “settled” one. If the University of Alberta is serious about “reconciliation” then it must participate in movements informed by and in partnership with Indigenous people not settler/colonizer movements to innocence.
UAlberta prides itself on achieving excellence and serving the public good, even citing its Faculty of Native Studies as one of a kind (http://www.provost.ualberta.ca/en/~/media/provost/Documents/2015_UAlberta_CIP_FINAL.pdf). Yet, the isolation of Native Studies to one faculty is a disservice to Indigenous peoples and the student body. As a settler student on Indigenous lands, I do not feel that my degree from the Faculty of Arts prepares me to be a responsible citizen. Required Native Studies credits in every faculty would promote understanding and respect, which I believe in a responsibility of any educational institution.
A mandatory Native Studies course requirement is important to me because I think every person who studies, works, lives, or visits these lands should be aware of the histories, contributions, and lifestyles of Indigenous peoples, and their relationship to the lands in which they have taken care of for centuries. An education and a general understanding about how colonialism, and the imposition of colonial law, has negatively affected Indigenous peoples is vital, if we as a society want to move forward in facing Canada’s dark past and move forward in forging new relationships.
The University of Alberta graduates thousands of students every year who are not prepared or do not understand Canada’s original history. The University of Alberta is ranked the fourth top university in Canada but they are not serving their students fundamental knowledge required for them to become successful in Indigenous relations and communication. The lack of involvement the University has with its Indigenous population both within the institution and outside contributes to the barriers Indigenous people fight to overcome every day. A Native studies course requirement would provide society's newest work force members with critical understandings to the real history of Canada and the Indigenous influences in Canada’s development.
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