Indigenous Studies degree approved by Arts & Science faculty

Faculty hopes to enroll students in new plan next fall

Faculty of Arts and Science approves Indigenous studies degree.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

After years of planning, Queen’s is introducing a new Indigenous Studies degree program.

A Bachelor of Arts (Honours) major and medial in Indigenous Studies was approved by the Arts and Science Faculty Board last week. If it receives Senate approval this month, it will be on its way to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) for final approval, according to Jill Atkinson, associate dean of the Arts and Science faculty.

“We are hoping to enroll students in these plans starting Fall 2020,” Atkinson said in a written statement to The Journal.

The objectives of the new degree are to provide students with a core knowledge of the histories and cultures of Indigenous peoples, an understanding of Indigenous knowledge systems and learning practices, and an introduction to local Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe communities.

“I am thrilled that Queen’s will offer a medial and major degree in Indigenous studies in 2020,” Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), associate vice-principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation), wrote in a statement to The Journal.

The development of an Indigenous Studies degree was born out of discussions held by Extending the Rafters, a University taskforce formed in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2017.

Included in the taskforce’s recommendations for the University was the development of programs and curriculum that encouraged the study of Indigenous history, culture, and knowledge at Queen’s.

Learning outcomes for this degree include students speaking, reading, writing and comprehending between two to three Indigenous languages, explaining the history of the colonization of Indigenous peoples, and the respectful discussion of Indigenous histories and cultures.

“One of my hopes is that it will contribute to an understanding of the resilience, but also the historic trauma, that has led to many of the social and health disparities experienced by Indigenous peoples and communities,” Hill said.

The Aboriginal Council Working Group on Indigenous Curriculum, Knowledge and Research, a group composed of mostly Indigenous community members and Queen’s faculty, has been tasked with addressing the larger Indigenous education goals at Queen’s, including this program.

The plans for an Indigenous-focused curriculum started with the implementation of a minor plan in Indigenous Studies in 2014. Four years later, an Indigenous Languages and Cultures Certificate and the Certificate in Mohawk Language and Culture under the Languages, Literatures and Culture department were established.

“I believe the new degree will offer students an opportunity to experience the world in a new way by considering and understanding things from an Indigenous lens, through Indigenous ways of knowing and being, especially on the land,” Hill said.

Other universities across Ontario, including Western University, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, and McMaster have implemented Indigenous Studies degree programs in recent years. There are also universities like Wilfrid Laurier that have combined Bachelor of Arts degrees in Indigenous Studies that require the study of another discipline.

“I like to believe with greater understanding and compassion, there [will] be fewer incidences of racism and homophobia,” Hill said.

 

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