Who's teaching mandated Indigenous content? Students call for more training for professors
While many students and faculty at Lakehead applaud the idea, some say the reality isn't quite what they'd imagined.
"I'm being taught by a non-Indigenous instructor and this professor, I feel, is perpetuating those stereotypes that we're talking about," said Kayla Tanner, who is in the fourth year of her undergraduate degree in Indigenous Learning at Lakehead.
She added, "I didn't want to speak out. In fact, just recently after the last class I had to leave the class and go cry in the bathroom, and I had to speak to several people and then I had to go smudge. My feeling with this course is I don't have the emotional capacity to do this twice a week. This is exhausting, and this is just one course."
Tanner said because of her own educational background, she recognizes some of the information being presented in her class is drawn from source material written by non-Indigenous academics from a non-Indigenous perspective.
"The rest of these students are learning some of these things for the first time, so they're perpetuating a non-Indigenous perspective and seeing it as true or as fact," she said.
Jenna Carew is a graduate student in social justice at Lakehead, with an undergraduate degree in Indigenous learning.
Robert Robson, an associate professor and the current chair of the Department of Indigenous Learning at Lakehead, called the Indigenous content requirement a good first step but added that there is a long way to go.
"I think Lakehead is at a point where it, too, is learning how to do this. I think efforts have been made to work with faculty to provide at least fundamental knowledge but … we still have a ways to go there as well," he added.
"The University of Manitoba hosted a workshop on Indigenous knowledge and the idea was to provide foundational skills to instructors to be able to enter the classroom comfortably and to be able to speak to the issues that need to be spoken to respectfully and I think that's part of what has to happen."
"There are some non-Indigenous professors teaching those courses, so we are trying to provide the support for them that they are not giving the wrong so-called 'facts,' and we're doing that through the Indigenous curriculum specialist," she said.
"We're trying to keep an eye on those things, and certainly if students have concerns they should step forward and I'd be happy to listen to those concerns and to bring them forward to the people that are in a position to do something about it."
Smith said the university is committed to this process and is open to ongoing consultation with students and faculty.
"Understanding we're coming from a university where close to 11 per cent of our student population are Indigenous students — and many of them from remote, Northern communities — and everyone, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are struggling [with] what it means to try and redress some of the historic wrongs that have been done, we felt that it was really important to start requiring this content."
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