SFU plans to introduce required Indigenous studies course

SFU students will likely have an Indigenous Studies course become part of their requirement to graduate in the future.

The discussion surrounding the development of a new Indigenous Studies course is currently in its early stages. SFU’s Office of Aboriginal Affairs plans to collaborate with the SFSS, the First Nations Student Association, and the Aboriginal Steering Committee, the vehicle of communication for SFU’s Aboriginal community, to make this educational component a reality.

“Our senior administration is very supportive of Aboriginal issues at SFU,” says William Lindsay, Director of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. “However, they want to make sure that [this is implemented] in the right way — it can’t be a top-down process, it should be student-led.”

The Office of Aboriginal Affairs is currently looking at providing three potential options for students: an Indigenous course being phased in for undergraduate students, an opportunity for each faculty to develop their own courses with Indigenous content, or the creation of an Aboriginal Awareness workshop for graduate students. They are hoping to implement all three of these options for the incoming class for Fall 2018.

The course would focus on educating students on facets of Aboriginal life and history, building off of the curriculums currently offered by the Department of First Nations Studies.

Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn, an Associate Professor and Chair within the Department of First Nations Studies, offered the existing introductory course, First Nations Studies 101, as an example. “In [First Nations Studies 101], students gain basic knowledge on issues of importance to native people in the contemporary world and the historical trajectory which they come from,” he says. “Anything that is on offer in the future will, of course, play off on what we already have.”

The SFSS will also form a working group that is yet to be created by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal Steering Committee. “We as the SFSS will be there to facilitate student advocacy and consultation work with students in how this program will be implemented,” explains Kathleen Yang, VP of External Relations.

At the February 12 SFSS Board of Directors meeting the board voted unanimously for a motion to endorse the course requirement.

Aside from providing students with knowledge and insight about First Nations history, this course is also being viewed as an opportunity for reconciliation. Lindsay noted that the development of this course is in line with the goal of education and awareness within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

“I really feel that students are ready for this. Canada is now more knowledgeable about Aboriginal issues than ever before. We [First Nations peoples] are in a position of influence in this country like never before.” he says.

Yang echoed this sentiment: “[This course is] not just about Indigenous people and settlers, it is about all of us coming together and learning about history. It really is about all of us.”

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