WINNIPEG, MB –It was two years ago, June 2, 2015, when the nation paused to listen to (now Senator) Murray Sinclair deliver the seminal Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report – a blueprint for change with specific Calls to Action aimed at bridging the divide between First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. More than 700 community members gathered in The University of Winnipeg’s Riddell Hall to witness the historic and moving event.
“Reconciliation, education and collaboration are interwoven strands of the same braid, and as the TRC report makes clear, we each have a role to play in this journey, a role UWinnipeg is deeply committed to pursuing,” said Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor, UWinnipeg.
UWinnipeg has among the strongest rates of Indigenous student participation in Canada with 12% of incoming students self-identifying as First Nations, Inuit and Métis. UWinnipeg is located on Treaty One land in the heart of the Métis Nation. The treaties are contractual agreements intended to benefit all people, which opened up these prosperous lands for settlement. Yet many Canadians have not been exposed to Indigenous history or perspectives.
That’s why effective September 2016, UWinnipeg heeded the TRC’s Calls to Action and became one of the first universities in the country (along with Lakehead) to mandate that new students have a baseline knowledge about Indigenous people and culture delivered as a complete undergraduate course. The Indigenous Course Requirement applies to all new undergraduates and to date, more than 1,500 students have enrolled in one of the 40 courses offered. Student Patricia Bulos, who is on her way to becoming a teacher, enrolled in History of Indigenous Education: Residential Schools & Beyond.
“My family is originally from the Philippines and we did not know anything about Indigenous people. After taking this class, I see things around me in the city differently.” Bulos adds that knowing more about Indigenous history will make her a better teacher.
“Much of the focus of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action are about education and awareness. I believe that as more and more Canadians have the opportunity to learn about Indigenous peoples and histories, there will be a growing eagerness to embrace the spirit of reconciliation,” said Kevin Lamoureux, Associate Vice President, Indigenous Affairs, UWinnipeg.
It is perhaps best articulated by Senator Murray Sinclair himself, who was the keynote speaker at UWinnipeg’s Duff Roblin dinner in November 2015. “Reconciliation is not as complicated as we think. It boils down to this. I want to be your friend, and I want you to be my friend.” …more…
Sampling of Indigenous knowledge initiatives currently underway at UWinnipeg
Indigenous Course Requirement
New undergraduate students choose from a wide range of three credit-hour courses in which the greater part of the content is local Indigenous material. TRC’s Call to Action
63 iii, “We call upon the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including: building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.”
In partnership with Indigenous Affairs, UWinnipeg’s Collegiate high school on campus is also now offering the first of its kind course on Truth and Reconciliation for all its grade nine students.
Indigenous Languages Courses
UWinnipeg recognizes and honors the central role of language as carrier of culture, tradition and knowledge, individual and community identity. We offer Indigenous languages Ojibwe and Cree credit courses, which contribute to the TRC’s Call to Action 16, “We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.” Additionally, our community outreach program, through the Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre, includes free Indigenous language classes for neighbourhood residents (“Let’s Teach Ojibwe to Our Kids”).
The Indigenous Summer Scholars Program
Created to help Indigenous undergraduate students move into advanced study, this summer, eight selected students will work on projects ranging from developing an economic model for adequate water facilities on First Nations to organizing intergenerational knowledge exchanges on climate change. Students are supervised by a UWinnipeg faculty member and earn a salary for their work over the ten weeks.
Inspired by the TRC report, this new summer course blends community work placements with in-class learning in Winnipeg’s North End and is designed to promote understanding and reconciliation through relationship-building. Twenty suburban and inner city students earn wages and six credits in this experiential learning course, which is offered by UWinnipeg’s department of Urban and Inner City Studies, and is funded by the City of Winnipeg. It is a two-year pilot project for 2017 and 2018.
“It is up to every Canadian to be an ally in the journey to achieving both truth and reconciliation.” Kailey Bradco, student, International Development and Urban and Inner City Studies, Youth United participant.
Indigenous Food Systems and Plants (Dr. Shailesh Shukla, Assistant Professor, Indigenous Studies)
This summer, Dr. Shukla again offers this field course in collaboration with educators on-site at Fisher River First Nation. The course grew from work Shukla and his students completed last year. They interviewed seventeen Elders and developed a cookbook entitled The Forgotten Traditional Foods of Fisher River. It is currently being translated into Cree and will be released in the coming months. In July, Shukla also takes students to Keeseekowenin First Nation, near Riding Mountain National Park, for a field course in Ethnobotany. In partnership with Elders, students are exposed to 50 different varieties of plants and their medicinal and nutritional properties.
Indigenous Ceremonies and Healing – (Dr. Mark F. Ruml, Associate Professor, Religion and Culture)
In collaboration with local healers, students participate in local Indigenous ceremonies to learn about Indigenous healing models and worldviews. In addition to classes on campus, students go to the Bannock Point Petroforms in the Whiteshell in May, and camp out at the Spruce Woods Sundance in June.
Material Culture in Northern Plains Indigenous History – (Dr. Roland Bohr, Professor, History)
Based on oral history, archaeology, and material culture, students in this course explore ways in which Indigenous and European technologies complement each other. The second half of the course moves from classroom to the ANPO-Bison Ranch, near Rossburn, Manitoba, where students work with Elders from nearby First Nations communities. They learn about bison culture and traditional technologies, such as tanning hides and manufacturing archery equipment, while living in traditional tipis.
Indigenous Doulas (Dr. Jaime Cidro, Assistant Professor, Anthropology)
Most Manitoba First Nations women from northern rural and remote communities journey away from home to give birth. Being alone and unsupported creates unnecessary stress and can cause negative health consequences for both mom and baby. Trained doulas can help alleviate this stress.
Dr. Jaime Cidro is leading a new collaborative study this summer, funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant, in partnership with the Manitoba Indigenous Doulas Initiative, Nanaandawegimig (First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba), and University of Manitoba researchers Drs. Maureen Heaman and Josee Lavoie. This project builds on Indigenous knowledge around women’s reproductive health and parenting practices. This summer a First Nations student from the Indigenous Summer Scholars Program will be working with the team as well as other graduate students. Up to 60 women are taking part in culturally-based Indigenous doula training in Cross Lake First Nation and two other communities, empowering women in the community to become prenatal and postpartum doulas.
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Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7135, E: email@example.com