After spending five years in Saskatchewan at Canada’s First Nations University, legal scholar Mark Dockstator is coming to Queen’s to lead the Indigenous Knowledge Initiative.
Queen’s Trustees David Sharpe, Law ’95, and member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, donated $250,000 to Queen’s to fund the Indigenous Knowledge Initiative, which aims to integrate Indigenous knowledge into the Queen’s academic system to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars.
Dockstator, member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames and Osgoode law graduate with a specialty in Indigenous issues, said he is “happy and honoured” to be part of the Initiative in an interview with The Journal.
“This Initiative is meant to build bridges,” he said. “It’s meant to build those connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and that is, by definition, what reconciliation is about.”
The Initiative will unfold over the next three years, with the first year focusing heavily on consultations.
“It’s always important to listen to the community first,” Dockstator said. “It’s an Indigenous approach to not only ask the questions, but to listen to what the community has to say.”
Part of listening, Dockstator emphasized, includes a strong focus on engagement.
“It’s always important to engage our students,” he said. “It’s important to engage your Elders and traditional knowledge holders. It’s important to ensure that these conversations take place, and that they are integrated into the vision and objectives of the university.”
Dockstator said this was his approach at First Nations University, which saw record numbers of student enrollment.
“At First Nations University, we had double-digit increases in our enrollments year after year for the last three years,” Dockstator said. “We did that by a similar process to what we’re doing now.”
This process, Dockstator explained, is to listen to what people’s needs are and design programs and services around those needs.
“When you increase the student satisfaction rates and deliver programs that they want to see and experience in a learning environment, then your enrollments go up, which is the experience that we had at First Nations University,” he said. “We’re hoping to bring that to Queen’s as well.”
As an example, Dockstator pointed to the development of a field school at First Nations University, which he said they called a “traditional campus.”
“[It’s] where students can learn Indigenous knowledge by going outside of the University by learning on the land,” he said. “It’s always an important component from an Indigenous perspective to not always integrate Indigenous knowledge in the academy, but sometimes bring the academy out to the land where students have the opportunity to learn from elders and other knowledgeable people.”
Dockstator said programs like these and outreach activities has the potential to attract more Indigenous students to Queen’s.
“It’s not exclusive,” he said. “Just as Western-based education is meant for everybody, so is Indigenous education and Indigenous knowledge.”
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