Emily ORourke
July 5, 2018
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

McMaster’s Indigenous Studies Program recently announced a new course, titled “RECONCIL 1A03: Reconciling What? Indigenous Relations in Canada”.

The three unit course, which is open to all members of the McMaster community, will be available in Winter 2019 and will examine the sociopolitical and historical relations between Indigenous peoples and Canada in a post-1951 time period. The course will also explore how colonialism, assimilation and resistance movements are situated in an era of reconciliation. 

RECONCIL 1A03 can also be selected as a Personal Interest Course, providing an opportunity for students to explore topics which may be new and unfamiliar.

Vanessa Watts, the Academic Director of McMaster’s Indigenous Studies program says that this course aims to offer a thorough look into what reconciliation means within the Canadian context.  

“What we’re seeing in Canadian politics and Indigenous politics is how this word is really landing within communities, within universities and within the business sector,” said Watts. “We’re seeing how it’s circulating and so with this course were trying to unpack that notion of reconciliation given certain historical and contemporary contexts of indigenous people within Canada.”

In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was established to facilitate truth telling and to foster reconciliation in Canada, given the legacy of the Indian Residential School system. An objective of the TRC was to increase public awareness surrounding the Indian Residential School system and its impacts. 

McMaster University sits on the traditional territories of the Mississauga and Haudenosaunee nations and within the lands protected by the Dish With One Spoon wampum agreement. Within these lands stands the Mohawk Institute, the first, and longest-running residential school in Canada, located nearly 30 minutes from our campus.

The Commission also recommended that Indigenous content be offered at a postsecondary level across multiple disciplines to maintain a momentum of reconciliation into the future. In 2017, Canada announced ten principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. 

These principles represent interests including land, treaties, self-government, rights, resources, and economic development, among others. Indigenous peoples have also identified similar areas of interest and highlight areas such as the need for language revitalization, the need to address systemic inequities and the importance of traditional governance systems. 

“Just as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on Canada and Canadians to witness the impact of the Indian Residential Schools and to be active participants in what reconciliation can look like, my hope is that students at McMaster are excited for the same opportunity,” said Watts. 

“It is shared legacy and a shared journey between Indigenous and non Indigenous peoples within Canada and I hope that these students are excited to learn more about reconciliation.”

The Indigenous Studies program is celebrating its 25th year at McMaster Uniersity this year. As such, this course is to offer a contextualized idea of reconciliation as it relates to academia and community, according to Watts.  

“It’s important that we think about reconciliation within the program from an academic outlook,” said Watts. “We also look at it from a community based outlook and those are the two kind of themes that run through all of our courses within Indigenous Studies.” 

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