News, Faculty, Indigenous Education

President's Dream Colloquium touches hearts, opens minds

December 09, 2016

By Diane Luckow

The recently completed President’s Dream Colloquium on Returning to the Teachings: Justice, Identity and Belonging was about healing and heart,” says co-organizer Vicki Kelly, an SFU professor of education.

“It was conceived as an important contribution to the vision of what reconciliation means and what education reconciliation is all about.”

The 10-part public lecture series—the eighth since the colloquium’s inception in 2012—attracted the largest and most diverse audiences of any colloquium, and the accompanying graduate credit course attracted an unprecedented number of students.

Kelly says one of the colloquium’s most important contributions was inviting Indigenous communities and their knowledge holders and elders to stand with SFU to host acknowledged visionaries in the areas of justice, education, restorative justice, health, and the environment.

The roster of speakers included Chief Robert Joseph, OBC, hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, and ambassador for Reconciliation Canada; Wab Kinew, Manitoba MLA; professor Manulani Aluli-Meyer, world Indigenous expert, and John Borrows, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law.

“It was an important moment for SFU in the history of the Lower Mainland—that SFU community members and First Nations community members stood together as a family to host the President’s Cream Colloquium,” says Kelly, who is Anishinaabe and Métis.

“Inviting the public to witness these ceremonies hasn’t happened before, and we had no understanding of how powerful and meaningful it would be.”

She says many audience members told her the lectures were life-changing.

Teacher/librarian Sophia Hunter, who is completing an SFU Master of Education, signed up for the five-credit colloquium course, which explored justice, identity and belonging in the context of education for reconciliation.

“One thing that surprised me was how little I knew about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada,” says Hunter, who graduated from both high school and university without learning about local First Nations history and perspectives.

“All Canadians need to be aware of the cultural genocide that took place in Canada and its lasting effects,” she says. “They need to be aware of the role of education in oppressing Indigenous peoples across the country. This awareness is a foundational component of reconciliation.”

Brenda Morrison, professor of criminology and director of SFU’s Centre for Restorative Justice, co-organized the colloquium with Kelly.

She says: “Reconciliation requires us to work across institutional silos—not only those that uphold the state: justice, education, health—but also disciplinary silos: education, criminology, psychology. This colloquium opened up new institutional spaces to work across silos with a vision for reconciliation. It has been a privileged to work with the Nations and the students towards this vision.