‘More than your grade 12 history textbook’: New Indigenous studies major to be launched in fall

Indigenous studies program expands into new major and medial offering in the fall

Professor Brinklow discusses the impacts and benefits the program will have on campus.

Queen’s will launch an Indigenous Studies major and medial this fall. The program will be administered by the department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LLCU).  

“Two and a half years ago we started developing the major and the medial in coordination with the working group of the Indigenous council and other stakeholders,” Professor Nathan Brinklow (Thanyehténhas), interim head of Indigenous studies, said in an interview with The Journal

The Indigenous Studies medial and major program will highlight and elevate the voices of local Indigenous communities while shedding light on the work of many elders and Indigenous trail blazers both nationally and locally, Brinklow said.

“Indigenous people have always been present at Queen’s, like when we look at pioneers like Marlene Brant Castellano, who came to Queen’s in the 50s,” Brinklow said.

“Indigenous content has been at Queen’s for many years, and there has been a shift, from people talking about us, to us talking about ourselves.”

Brinklow added the major and medial program is unique because it combines courses from different departments and knowledge systems.

“We don’t have a dedicated Indigenous Studies department. As we were developing the major and medial there was advocacy work in other departments and faculties. [...] Our goal is to show that traditional Indigenous knowledge is for everyone and about everything,” Brinklow said. 

Along with the broad course offerings in the Indigenous Studies program, the LLCU department is also developing collaborations with other Indigenous programs on campus, such as the Indigenous teachers program administered by the Faculty of Education. 

Since the Indigenous Studies program has a language requirement, Queen’s and the LLCU department emphasized the possibility of individualizing learning experiences, Brinklow said.

“If there’s an Indigenous student that’s Mohawk, we offer their language and they can connect to their language. But we are more than happy to work with the Registrar and allow for students from different communities to access their own language education through transfers credits or mentorships,”

Along with the teachers, Indigenous Studies will individualize programing through the capstone courses and field courses they wish to offer once hiring is complete.

Through the program approval process, which involves consultation with external organizations, university stakeholders, and the Ontario Ministry of Colleges, and Universities a greater opportunity to hire more Indigenous academics will exist, Brinklow added.

“One of the recommendations through the program approval process is to have more dedicated hiring and resources, this is especially true for the land-based courses and the capstone course. We can do all of these things for the plan, but we need dedicated hires to support this.”

Along with the opportunities it provides for students, the Indigenous Studies plans will focus on adherence to a move towards adopting Truth and Reconciliation guidelines. 

“[The] Program creates spaces for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students by creating a place for healthy discussion and dialogue. Reconciliation makes sense on a national level, but on an individual level it's learning how to listen, how to share, and getting to know each other,” Brinklow said. 

The Indigenous Studies program will focus on supporting students in exploring career opportunities that exist with an Indigenous Studies major or medial. According to Brinklow, Indigenous Studies is everywhere, and this is something which will be emphasized in course work and career searching.

“There are also a lot of corporate opportunities, some of these examples are oil and gas, teaching, and scientific research,” Brinklow said. 

In speaking directly to students who might be wondering if Indigenous Studies is for them, Brinklow said the program is about community, learning and sharing.

“The diversity, the range of experience, and the different learning environments combined with our encouragement of different modes of assessment will help build places where you can grow and learn together with your peers.”  

“Indigenous Studies is not what you think it is, it is not based on your grade 12 history textbook. There is so much more.”

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