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Canyon de Chelly, one of the most significant sites in Navajo Nation, and a hugely significant site in North America // Photo by Ralph Stern

Canyon de Chelly, one of the most significant sites in Navajo Nation, and a hugely significant site in North America // Photo by Ralph Stern

Indigenizing the curriculum

Faculty of Architecture moves to embrace the principles of Indigenous design

December 14, 2015 — 

Indigenous Achievement is a key strategic priority for the University of Manitoba. The Faculty of Architecture has made its own commitment to Indigenous Achievement in its Faculty Strategic Plan.

A new Interdisciplinary Indigenous Design Studio was launched for the Fall 2015 term. Students are working with Navajo Nation on a small town on the New Mexico/Arizona state line. In coordination with the University of New Mexico the project involves environmental design students as well as graduate students of landscape architecture.

Co-taught by Marcella Eaton, Associate Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Chair of the Environmental Design Program, and Ralph Stern, Professor in the Department of Architecture, the Studio supports these strategic priorities with the added goal of engaging the challenge of “Indigenizing” the curriculum. In a recent article published in the Faculty of Architecture’s Network magazine, Stern writes about what it means to “Indigenize” the curriculum.

“Having embraced the principle of Indigenous design in [the Faculty Strategic Plan], an ambitious implementation plan will enable the Faculty of Architecture to become a national and international leader in this field. This will enable us to attract and educate Indigenous designers to become leaders in professional design fields. Indigenizing the curriculum is a vital and necessary step towards achieving this goal. Achieving this would, in turn, support the advancement of Indigenous design in our professional programs.”

Stern concludes:

“Many of the issues facing Indigenous communities today are environmental in nature: they are issues impacting watersheds and food sheds, contamination and reclamation, as well as designing healthy environments for future generations. The locus for this, as mentioned at the opening of this text, is most appropriate in the Environmental Design Program, embracing all students and all design disciplines within the Faculty. It would also be appropriately located in a Faculty-based PhD Program for those interested in developing specific expertise in topics addressed broadly in the undergraduate program. It is these loci, undergraduate and post-graduate, in which disciplinary borders for a professional Faculty must be permeable: supporting and expanding the professional disciplines at the graduate level. International borders must be equally permeable, and the Faculty of Architecture is well positioned to serve as a conduit for Indigenous peoples to move across all borders in order to facilitate and implement Indigenous design. This must be led with a vision, now outlined in the Faculty Strategic Plan 2015-2020, that is not only continental, but truly global in ambition and scope.”

Read more from Stern in the 2014-2015 Network.

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