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Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., to mandate indigenous learning
All Lakehead students required to learn about indigenous peoples, starting in 2016
Feb 23, 2015 1:25 PM ET CBC News
Lakehead University is moving to make it mandatory for all undergraduate students to take indigenous education.
Starting in 2016, studies about indigenous people and issues will be incorporated into courses in every faculty on campus.
Yolanda Wanakamik, co-ordinator of graduate and external relations with the office of aboriginal initiatives, said it’s part of the university’s over all strategic plan.
“The idea is that any student in an undergraduate program will graduate from Lakehead with one half credit having significant indigenous knowledge,” Wanakamik said.
Teaching tailored to each student
The teaching will reflect a student’s area of study. For example, Wanakamik explained,” in natural resource management at Lakehead you will have a lot of foresters graduating that are going to have to engage First Nations communities, so they will need to understand what treaties are.”
Wanakamik pointed to graduating engineers as well, who need to go north and would have to learn about where they are going and the culture of First Nations.
Beyond raising understanding of indigenous people, Wanakamik said the intent of making these kind of studies mandatory is to talk openly about the issue of racism.
“There will be conversations in the classroom. Most people will be talking about stereotypes people have about indigenous people in northwestern Ontario, in fact across Canada,” she said.
Wanakamik called the move towards mandatory indigenous education unique, with Lakehead in her estimation being the only Canadian university that has done this, so far.
As a a former aboriginal student at Lakehead herself, Wanakamik said she’s proud of what the university is doing.
“People have responded to it. People are excited. This is a boost for students.”