Queen’s needs to better incorporate Indigenous subjects in its academic programs.
McGill University officially launched its Indigenous Studies program on Dec. 10. The interdisciplinary minor is a part of the university’s efforts to decolonize McGill, by removing the colonial lens that persists in countless academic disciplines.
Indigenous subjects are often tucked into other courses. By creating a distinct program, McGill is formally considering them to be a discipline in their own right, rather than supplementary material whose inclusion is left to a professor’s discretion.
The program’s interdisciplinary nature ensures that while it’s its own discipline, it isn’t separated entirely from other fields of study. It also emphasizes the foundational nature of Indigenous history in Canadian post-secondary education.
McGill’s commitment to preserving and developing fringe academic programs is admirable, as is the strong push the program received from students.
As a university that resides on Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territory, Queen’s has a particular obligation to ensure Indigenous subjects are a part of its students’ education.
While Queen’s offers an Indigenous Studies minor, and the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre has been active on campus, the administration and faculties should do more to move Indigenous education in from the periphery.
Incorporating Indigenous contexts in all disciplines is paramount in decolonizing the academic sphere.
The University should offer such credits starting at the first- or second-year level, to introduce students to these subjects early on. Queen’s should also consider taking a leaf out of McGill’s book by looking for Indigenous professors to teach these courses.
Fringe programs, especially for ethnic studies, are critical for preserving memory and understanding of these cultures. Implementing these programs is important to ensure more Indigenous students seek post-secondary educations and are able to formally learn languages that are a part of their history.
As calls for an inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women persist, it’s clear Indigenous issues continue to be inadequately addressed in Canada. It’s as pertinent as ever for students to learn about these issues and their history.
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