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Education for Reconciliation

March 08, 2017
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British Columbia’s education curriculum is undergoing significant change. One of its challenges is a requirement for teachers to infuse Indigenous knowledge and practices into all curriculum subjects.

To support teachers in this endeavour, SFU’s Faculty of Education is introducing Indigenous Education: Education for Reconciliation, a unique, two-year, part-time, Graduate Diploma in Advanced Professional Studies in Education (GDE).

“Education for reconciliation is about intercultural learning, and transforming the systemic contexts in which we raise young people,” says education professor Vicki Kelly. “And it’s about finding ways to respond to the call to attend to Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations, and what it means to live on this land together.”

A unique program

She and GDE coordinator Paula Rosehart have spent the past year conceiving and preparing a pathway for the program that incorporates both Indigenous and Western knowledge and perspectives in a complementary way. A significant—and unique— aspect of the program is that it has been developed in partnership and collaboration with members of the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and the North Vancouver School District.

Squamish Nation Councillor Chris Lewis, an SFU senator, says, “This program is a great step forward in providing meaningful, accurate and authentic local First Nation knowledge and understanding to those educators and champions who serve to educate our youth in the education system.”

He adds, “Our hope for this program is that it will also contribute to meaningful community engagement and government-to-government partnership building between educational institutions and First Nations communities.”

Says Kelly, “We wanted to create a program that would foster sustained inquiry into  the relevance of Indigenous education today for all children—a program that  expresses the Indigenous worldview, values and understanding of human development, and that explores what that offers children and educators, as well as the Canadian public.”

Students learn on traditional First Nations lands

And, there’s another unique aspect to the GDE program: it will be delivered on the traditional Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nation lands. Class members will learn about the land and Indigenous knowledge practices and pedagogies from members of each Nation, and participate in traditional activities and community events.

“SFU Burnaby campus is in the heart of Tsleil-Waututh territory,” says Angela George, the Nation’s director of community development, “and collaboration and partnership is a key priority for our Nation. This education initiative is an important step in our relationship building that will combine the strengths, knowledge and understanding of the host Nations, North Vancouver School District and SFU to collaborate on a rich and culturally appropriate program.”

For the first time, the program is not only open to elementary, middle school and secondary teachers, but also to local First Nations’ education assistants and support workers.

“We’re helping to build capacity in the school district and within the Nations’ communities, and we are doing this together,” says Rosehart. “We hope to be drawing from the knowledge and understandings of the local Nations—from the people who are the leaders and mentors within the Nations. This collaborative work is for the children, youth and teachers of the next generation.”

Says George, “Reconciliation efforts such as these, offered with cultural integrity and genuine pro-action, and featuring the traditional knowledge-keepers as a main component in the development and delivery of Indigenous Studies programming, are imperative to successful reconciliation in Canada.”

The program will accommodate 30 students, with students attending class one evening a week, and also a one-week summer institute, on Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations’ land. Applications are now open.

For more information: gdecoord@sfu.ca, 778-782-3389.

By Diane Luckow, SFU University of Communications 

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