First Nations University introduces reconciliation studies program

Merelda Fiddler, an instructor at the university and former CBC journalist, teaches in the program and said the program was born of "deficits" in education and curriculum.

Program born of 'deficits' in education on residential schools, says instructor

Terry-Lynn McNab (left) is a band councillor on the George Gordon First Nation. Merelda Fiddler (right) is an instructor at the university. (Coreen Larson/CBC)

A new program at the First Nations University of Canada is giving one student a fresh perspective on the history of Canada's residential schools.

According to the school's website, the program "focuses on recognizing the shared history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and the need to promote healing, equity and respect for … Indigenous cultures and values in Canadian Society." It's an 18-credit certificate. 

Merelda Fiddler, an instructor at the university and former CBC journalist, teaches in the program and said the program was born of "deficits" in education and curriculum, noting that there are people who never learned about residential schools.

Terry-Lynn McNab, a band councillor on the George Gordon First Nation, said she took the course because she felt it would give her some ideas to take back to her community. 

"I think it's important that we acknowledge the past so we can make better choices in our community for getting over the traumas of residential schools," McNab said.

George Gordon First Nation was the site of the last federally run residential school in Canada until it closed in 1996. A recent article by the Canadian Medical Association Journal linked residential schools with health issues among Indigenous people such as obesity and diabetes. 

McNab's work within the program addressed the 41st call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which called for a national inquiry into the disproportionate victimization of Indigenous women and girls.

McNab related the work to her cousin Melanie Dawn Geddes who was murdered in 2005.

Along with residential schools, there came a shift in society when Indigenous women, who were central figures in Indigenous community and their decisions, were relegated to a lower status, McNab said.

"Our women are marginalized, not only in society, but sometimes our own community as well."


With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition