Fall 2023 - INDG 462 B100

Indigenous Oral Testimony: Theory, Practice, Purpose, Community (4)

Class Number: 4393

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Oct 6, 2023: Tue, 8:30–11:20 a.m.

    Oct 11 – Dec 5, 2023: Tue, 8:30–11:20 a.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    60 units including INDG (or FNST) 101 or INDG (or FNST) 201W and permission of the instructor.



Examines protocol, theory, responsibility, issues of domain (including inherent rights) involving traditional oral testimony, storytelling, oral narrative in an Aboriginal/Nation-centric canon. Compares Aboriginal canon 'oral record' to Aboriginal individual first-person accounts. Students with credit for FNST 462 may not take this course for further credit.


Testimony is one method for continuous spiritual, social, political, and cultural knowledge.

Testimonio/y is the recitation of facts based upon personal experience and witness, ones’ responses to event(s), involves reciprocal trust, is grass-roots driven, and is ultimately to promote and actualize justice and peace.

Testimonio/y is one survival and thriveance strategy for peoples severely marginalized by war, lawless state actors, criminal organizations, massive resource exploitations, missionizations, and acts of genocide.

Testimonio is free, it is informed, and it always practiced in order to actualize elusive Rights, to bear witness to past, current, and on-going crimes (especially those committed by the state, militarized police, and certain corporate actors). Testimonio/y is necessary for many reasons, such as to “fix what has been broken apart by human hands.”

Course briefly examines and compares traditional oral history (protocol, theory, responsibility, domain) with community storytelling (speech, poems, prayers, and/or songs), in order to understand testimonio/y in an Indigenous and Nation-centric canon. Testimonio/y is for inside and outside the Home/Land community. It is an effective tool in the quest for justice, especially when typical vehicles have been made inaccessible to the poor, the Indigenous, and systematically oppressed. Testimonio/y has its own protocols, domain (inherent rights), methods, purpose and responsibilities.

To recognize and understand Testimonio/y as a vehicle towards social and environmental justice, the further actualization of elusive human rights, and the rights of all Beings and HomeLands to thrive.


In this course with a hemispheric Indigenous focus, Students will:
i. Practice deep reading, deep thinking, deep listening, introspection;
ii. Develop excellent communication skills;
iii. Place themselves within the global paradigm and conversation of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions from several countries such as Guatemala, South Africa, and Canada;
iv. Contemplate the meaning of terms such as genocide, reconciliation, rights, ecocide, colonial impositions;
v. Create as a group, a working vocabulary for Testimonio in our lives;
vi. Discuss violence and lawlessness at the international, national, state, local, and domestic level;
vii. Learn Indigenous Nation-specific protocols, values, and uses of testimonio/y;
viii. Discuss Indigenous Nation-centric concepts of relationship, responsibilities (rights), and an Indigenous bioregionalism as defined by community and HomeLand;
ix. Understand Indigenous Nation-centric traditional and contemporary laws, privileges, histories, realities, rooted in HomeLand Place, and subject to the many waves of colonialism and its others;
x. Respond appropriately (using respectful communication), as a student/researcher/community member;
xi. Practice and learn group discussion methods, speaking clearly in a succinct manner, with equal time for all student participants;
xii. Welcome, support, and discuss difficult topics factually, within a diverse set of various differing points-of-view, where we may, can, and do disagree;
xiii. See Nation-centric concepts of the researchers' responsibility to Indigenous community;
xiv. Review diverse methods and testimonio/y products from and within Indigenous communities;
xv. interview others and record interviews (depending upon pandemic rules); and other outcomes as they evolve through community coursework, agreed to by consensus of the group.

It is hoped students will be exposed to a life-long understanding of justice work in Indigenous communities, and where appropriate, begin their journey within the practice. Students may interact with community individuals and networks to address a research topic and deliverable of the communities' choice, as reached by community and student consensus. Course addresses research protocols inside and outside the academy and their conflicts, relationship in art and research, and creation of deliverables in a community and personal setting.


  • Weekly discussion and active participation (2 points per week for thirteen weeks) 26%
  • Weekly readings and written critical analysis (3 points per week for thirteen weeks) 39%
  • Midterm Presentation: full attendance and discussion 5%
  • Final Presentation: full attendance and discussion 5%
  • Compiled vocabulary list with other students weekly 13%
  • Term Research Project: TBD by classroom community 12%


Absences: Three absences result in a lowering of the course mark by one full grade (example, an A with three absences becomes a B). For on-line classes, attendance means we can see one another via camera for the entire course.

Progress: Students are expected to demonstrate improvement in communication, written and verbal skills, as well as proficiency in working as a community of learners. We are free to hold and demonstrate diverse ideas respectfully yet must remain focused on the subjects at hand. Please note SFU’s Student Rules of Conduct.

***Please note, to accommodate the complexities inherent in life, this syllabus is subject to modification at any time in order to meet student needs, interests, as well as evolving Rights issues. Students are responsible to remain informed at all times. We make changes within a consensus model. ***



Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.