A Land-Based Educational Film Series: Supporting Decolonization and Understanding in the SFU Community

April 23, 2024
Dr. Amy Parent and Dr. Jeannie Kerr

In a groundbreaking initiative, Dr. Amy Parent has spearheaded the creation of a film series titled "Critical Understandings of Land & Water: Unsettling Place at SFU" featuring the wisdom of Coast Salish knowledge holders and SFU faculty engaged in land-based decolonizing education.

Upon joining SFU as a faculty member in the Faculty of Education, Dr. Parent noticed the glaring omission of Simon Fraser's historical context and interactions with Indigenous peoples and communities on the campuses that SFU occupies. This realization spurred her to action, aiming to bridge the significant gap between historical injustices for Indigenous peoples and communities and contemporary reconciliation efforts on the SFU campuses.

With the Center for Educational Excellence, Dr. Parent led the development of a multimedia resource to enrich teaching practices and cultivate a stronger connection to land-based education at SFU that respects Indigenous sovereignty. The aim was to highlight a critical understanding of the land SFU is on, and the university's naming, in support of reconciliation and decolonization. The film series has evolved from being a learning opportunity for students, to a comprehensive series to broadly support the learning of staff, faculty, leadership, students, and all those who live and work on the SFU campuses.

The series, comprised of thirteen films and three thematic oral editorials, emphasizes the power of shared personal stories from Coast Salish knowledge holders and allied faculty in understanding and challenging institutional racism and the ongoing need for deeper decolonization.

  • Margaret & Michelle George, Səlilwətaɬ Nation
  • Latash – Maurice Nahanee, Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Nation
  • Kwes'Kwestin James Kew, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nation
  • Cyril & Ed Pierre, q̓ic̓əy̓ Nation
  • Sqwayeten, Cheryl Gabriel, qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ Nation
  • Xwopokton, Chief Harley Chappell, Semyome Nation
  • Naxaxalhts’i Albert (Sonny) McHalsie, Stó:lō Nation
  • Shoysqwelwhet – Dr. Gwendolyn Point, Stó:lō Nation
  • Dr. Cher Hill, Faculty of Education
  • Dr. Adel Iskander, School of Communication
  • Dr. Sheri Fabian, Criminology
  • Dr. Mark Winston, Senior Fellow of the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue

"The overlapping nature of these stories opens doors for those new to this knowledge to grasp a larger, collective narrative. Through the personal lived experiences of the knowledge holders, we come to understand the myriad of destructive government policies that have facilitated and continue to perpetuate oppression, racism, and genocide toward Indigenous peoples. Yet, in the face of such adversity, we are uplifted by the incredible strength, resilience, hope, love, and kindness that radiate from the Elders' personal stories and teachings, reminding us that the personal is undeniably political." – Dr. Amy Parent

Dr. Parent has contributed oral editorials to provide transparency about the methodologies and decisions made during the film's creation, as well as to support broader understanding of the contributions of the film series to contextualize and support learning and understanding.

In 2020, a launch event took place, where a montage of the films was screened, with the Coast Salish knowledge holders in attendance being honored and blanketed. Integral to the project, the knowledge holders shared their stories and perspectives. As the series continues to evolve, its trajectory remains dynamic and responsive. "I want to create an accessible series that meets learners wherever they are on their decolonizing journey, offering them a doorway to begin or continue their education in Indigenous history and contemporary issues where they live and work," Dr. Parent notes.

The next phase of the project involves a collaborative research project with Dr. Jeannie Kerr, wherein they engage with viewers of the film series to inform related curriculum development. "We're studying what the SFU community learns from the series in order to continue to work with knowledge holders in the design of key resources and further learning opportunities," Dr. Kerr outlines. The goal is to channel the insights gleaned into a curriculum that does not just inform but engages and resonates with all viewers.

The series' potential is vast, and its impact continues to grow. With each shared story, personal narrative, and academic partnership, the series stands as a testament to the power of education in forging paths toward understanding, reconciliation, and change. Dr. Parent's own commitment to a living, breathing learning experience reflects the essence of the narratives it aims to convey—a journey of knowledge, heart, and action promoting Indigenous sovereignty.

The door is open for those within the SFU community and beyond who wish to be part of this ever-evolving project. You're welcome to participate and help shape a series that highlights the depth of Indigenous wisdom from the Coast Salish community.