By Christopher Thrall –
What comes to mind when you hear “aboriginal”, “Treaty rights” or Métis? For many, they refer to Canada’s third solitude and are left undiscussed. However, for a growing number of Albertans, these are terms that are going to help define the next twenty years.
“Demographics show that the native population of Canada is increasing faster than the rest, including in urban centres,” says Dr. Chris Andersen, associate professor in the faculty of native studies at the University of Alberta. Next semester, Andersen will teach NS200 for students, Augustana staff and members of the community who want to learn about the realities behind the words. As the population grows, their issues will involve more and more people.
Aboriginal Canada: Looking Forward, Looking Back promises a general overview of the relationship between aboriginal and settler societies. “What we’re interested in is to try to get the students exposure to aboriginal issues within the Alberta context,” says Andersen. “They will get familiar with the impact of colonialism and capitalism through a discussion of various definitions, health care and resource development issues, aboriginal stereotypes, those kinds of things.” He suggests that anyone who plans a career related in any way to aboriginal issues – including the oilfield, education or government – would find the information valuable.
The three-hour weekly classes include a lecture, delivered from the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton through the technology of the Augustana Language Lab. For the rest of the class, a seminar leader will help bring students through discussions about the material. Andersen promises guest speakers and multimedia presentations on the issues that will be covered.
“This is not just to teach non-aboriginals about aboriginals, nor to teach aboriginals how to be aboriginals,” laughs Andersen. “I hope to provide a more complex understanding about what it means to be aboriginal, both historically and today, and the kind of relationships we have between us. We don’t live in a society where we are encouraged to think relationally, to find a larger context for issues such as why aboriginal peoples tend to suffer from social inequities around the world.”
“The course lends itself well to people of all walks of life,” says Andersen. “I have had many mature students who have had practical, long-term experience with these issues. It is terrific watching them make connections with the material and to teach other students in their class through their experiences.”
In trying to share some understanding of aboriginal issues, Native Studies 200 has been very popular: its enrolment has tripled in three years, and now Augustana campus is hosting a section in Camrose for a maximum of 20 students. Please visit the website for more information about the course, and email Augustana or call 1-800-661-8714 to take the class, register for course credit or add it to your curriculum.