Some University of Saskatchewan members are raising questions about the school’s efforts to “indigenize,” especially how it will tackle its goal of making Indigenous content mandatory of all students.
“It’s not just ‘add Indigenous and stir,'” said longtime U of S Indigenous studies professor Priscilla Settee.
“It’s a world view and it takes a long time to learn how to do it respectfully, even for those of us that are Indigenous.”
Settee, a member of the Cumberland House Cree Nation, and most others interviewed applaud the overall goal of doing more to include First Nations and Métis perspectives and people at the U of S. But they aren’t sure the action will match the talk.
“It’s a nice idea — I just wish we knew more about it,” said U of S Indigenous Student Society vice-president Lisa Durocher-Bouvier.
University president Peter Stoicheff has called indigenization one of his highest priorities. If the U of S, and Saskatchewan as a whole, doesn’t work to improve the relationship between Indigenous people and the general public, nothing else matters, he said.
Some steps have already been taken. There’s the new $17-million Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre on campus.
Efforts to recruit Indigenous students and faculty have also intensified.
The concern lies with an ambitious overhaul of the curriculum for all 21,000 students. There’s a plan to make some form of Indigenous education mandatory for all colleges. The changes are supposed to take effect two years from now.
But there aren’t nearly enough professors in the department of Indigenous studies to teach everyone.
So will professors of agriculture or engineering or French literature be expected to teach it? If so, who will decide whether the material meets cultural and academic standards? These are some of the questions being asked by Settee and others.
“Who’s qualified? What’s their background to teach this information? It’s one thing to have goodwill and that, but really it needs a deep understanding of the many realms that it intersects with, like historical, cultural, political, gender — all of those issues that it takes a lifetime to lean, to learn the accurate history,” Settee said.
“You can’t just do it haphazardly.”
Indigenization a sensitive issue
In an interview, vice-provost Patti McDougall initially took exception to labelling the…