University of Winnipeg approves indigenous course requirement
ALANNA SMITH, CONTRIBUTOR
University of Winnipeg students will be required to take at least one course fo- cused on indigenous culture starting in fall of 2016, and students have mixed feelings about it.
The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, in cooperation with the Aboriginal Students’ Council, proposed the course requirement with the goal of combating common misconceptions about indigenous people. Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie, female co-pres- ident of the University of Winnipeg Aboriginal Students’ Council, said the requirement is long overdue.
“There is no more time to waste. Indigenous and history should have been explained and explored a long time ago,” said Lavoie.
“Not only does Winnipeg have the highest indigenous population in the country, (but also) there is an increasing number of indigenous students whose struggles go unacknowledged,” Lavoie said. “Part of the requirement’s goal is to create a cultural space for aboriginal students – to facilitate a mutual dialogue between them and other students.”
Melissa Langdon, a theatre student at the University of Winnipeg, said the requirement is a welcomed step toward mutual understanding.
“I think that the requirement will be beneficial for students,” Langdon said. “It is important to address lingering racist attitudes within the school and greater community.”
Some students see obstacles present ed by the new requirement for students.
“I’m already struggling to fit in all the prerequisites I need for my degree, so adding another one into the mix is problematic for me,” said Hayley Allardyce, a criminal justice student.
Currently, no RRC programs have an indigenous course requirement. Benjamin McDonald, RRC Students’ Association president, said the student government is looking at different ways to incorporate indigenous learning beyond a mandatory course.
“We are looking at ways we can facilitate understanding outside of the classroom, through awareness weeks or promoting indigenous events or making sure that the indigenous are represented in our student government,” McDonald said.
“You’re going to be working with all kinds of people in the workforce, so if you have an understanding of where they’re coming from as a person, as a culture – that’s important,” he said.
The University of Winnipeg is one of the first post-secondary institutions in Canada to have an indigenous course requirement.