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Hearing student voices on graduating with Indigenous awareness

February 2, 2016 — 

During Indigenous Awareness Week, students and members of the university community gathered with thought leaders and experts to discuss the possibility of an Indigenous Course or Credit Requirement (ICR) for the University of Manitoba.

With many other post-secondary institutions looking for the right fit, the UofM is also exploring how we can ensure all of our students graduate with a basic understanding of the importance and contributions of Indigenous peoples in Manitoba and Canada.

But what is the best way to do that? It is with an ICR or other method? Should the ICR be one single course or a series of courses tailored and relevant to the various faculties and subject areas? There are a lot of opinions on the topics, which we saw at the January 28th event.

When the discussion of an ICR or other integration method was posted on the UofM social media channels, it generated more comments and engagement than any other topic seen on Instagram or Facebook. It inspired intense discussions and strong feelings.

These are some of the comments you made on the subject:

It’s an awesome idea. It was a requirement in my degree and I’m glad it was because it led me to minor in the subject. It’s an imperative discussion that everyone needs to be a part of.

I’m sorry to say it but this creates resentment. You should not force people to pay for a course that they don’t want to take.

Cultural competency in any job and degree is worthwhile. You’ll likely be working with people in the future, therefore, you should understand at least one culture other than your own.

Teaching indigenous culture throughout all of elementary and high school would be 1000% more effective. Educate people while they’re young, while they’re still forming opinions of who they are as people.

I don’t think it’s a good or bad thing but if it’s irrelevant to someone’s area of study, then it should not be a mandatory class.

Having a music degree doesn’t make you a responsible citizen. A well rounded education does. 

In order to continue consulting with the student body on the best way to move forward, the University of Manitoba Aboriginal Students’ Association and the Office of Indigenous Achievement invite ALL students to participate in Sharing Circles to discuss the U of M’s strategic action: “Ensure every student graduates with a basic understanding of the importance and contributions of Indigenous peoples in Manitoba and Canada.”

These sessions will gather feedback provided by students:

  • How do YOU think Indigenous knowledge can be incorporated in the university experience?
  • Several universities across Canada are implementing an Indigenous Course Requirement. Should the U of M do the same?
  • What other ways can we ensure that every student graduates with Indigenous awareness?

The Sharing Circles will take place:

Room 543/544 University Centre
12:30 PM – 2 PM
Thursday, February 4, 2016

William Norrie Centre
12:30 PM – 2 PM
Friday, March 18, 2016

Bannatyne Campus
Room TBD
12:30 PM – 2 PM
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

All U of M students are welcome and a free lunch will be provided. If you have any questions or need more information, please contact: Ruth Shead, Coordinator in Indigenous Achievement at

Interested in the learning more about the topic? Here is a recommended reading list:

Taking our Place: Strategic Plan 2015-2020
In its five-year strategic plan, under the priority area Inspiring Minds, the U of M lays out the goal: “Ensure every student graduates with a basic understanding of the importance and contributions of Indigenous peoples in Manitoba and Canada.” (page 13, bullet point e.)

Manitoba Collaborative Indigenous Education Blueprint
University of Manitoba

MOU between U of M and the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba

The U of W makes Indigenous course a requirement
CBC Manitoba

Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., to mandate Indigenous learning
CBC Thunder Bay

Lakehead University: Indigenous Content Requirement
Lakehead University

Paved with Good Intentions: Simply Requiring Indigenous Content is Not Enough

Yukon College introduces First Nations core competency for all graduates
Yukon College

‘Indigenizing the Academy’ without Indigenous people: who can teach our stories?

Learning from Knowledge Keepers of Mi’kma’ki
Cape Breton University

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