The University of Manitoba Senate passed a motion on Nov. 4 to modify graduation requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degrees in the Faculty of Arts to include an Indigenous Content requirement effective next Sept. 1.
The modification was proposed by the Faculty of Arts requiring its students to complete a minimum of three credit hours from a list of courses that satisfy an Indigenous Content requirement to graduate.
Courses that satisfy the requirement include Native studies, history, political studies as well as women’s and gender studies courses. In 2016, a similar requirement was implemented for all students at the University of Winnipeg.
“The Faculty of Arts has been working on this for years, in consultation with Indigenous faculty and the Department of Native Studies,” said the U of M Students’ Union president Jelynn Dela Cruz on Tuesday.
“In the advocacy of student leaders, this need stemmed from Indigenous learners pointing out that students are continually graduating with a lack of knowledge regarding decolonization, reconciliation, and their relationship to the land.”
Prior to an Indigenous content requirement, Indigenous students at the U of M have voiced a lack of support for the re-traumatization that occurs within post-secondary institutions. In many discussions with Indigenous student leaders, they would vocalized their community’s experiences.
Often, they feel singled-out as the only Indigenous learner in a classroom, and they feel the added burden of teaching and offering an authentic perspective.
“As non-Indigenous students, we have both a responsibility to learn and a responsibility to teach this content, once our degrees are complete. An Indigenous content requirement is essential for the university’s goal of graduating informed and community-minded citizens,” said Cruz.
The Faculty of Arts believe that the future success of their graduates depends on understanding the cultures, epistemologies, sovereignty, treaty rights, political status, and histories of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Among the rationale for the proposal was that the U of M is home to the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation.
Therefore, the requirements align with the university’s commitment to support and implement the Calls to Action specific to education, stating that educational institutions must build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.
As a result of these commitments, the Faculty of Arts proposed the “Indigenous Content Course” designation for a three-credit requirement for all Arts degrees.
This decision was reached through broad consultation by a committee including faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, and staff throughout three years.
“The most important reason for including this content in Arts students' degree is that it better equips them to understand the world they live in as Canadian citizens/residents, as well as citizens of the world,” said Heidi Marx, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Affairs.
“When students first learn about the residential school system, for instance, we often hear them say, ‘Why didn't I know about this already? Why didn't anyone tell me about this before now?’ Learning about the wrongs of the past also allows students to become active, engaged, and empathetic participants in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”
Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun