Located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people, UBC has a storied – but often forgotten – history in relation to local Indigenous peoples. As part of the Classroom Climate series, CTLT’s Aboriginal Initiatives team hosted Uncovering Indigenous Stories at this “Place of Mind”: Bridging the Digital World and Place at UBC. Facilitators Sarah Ling, Hanae Tsukada, Amy Perreault, and Drew Ann Wake shared new digital resources that highlight UBC’s relationships with Indigenous peoples and discussed how the tools can be integrated into teaching and learning.
Sarah Ling, CTLT Aboriginal Initiatives’ Graduate Academic Assistant, discussed two projects she is currently developing. The first project is the Totem Park Residence Educational Film Series, which explores the history behind the names and land of Totem Park Residence. Totem Park, which houses nearly 2000 students, was first developed in the 1960s. The original six house names – Nootka, Dene, Haida, Salish, Kwakiutl, and Shuswap – were chosen to honour some of BC’s First Nations, but were named without proper consultation with Indigenous communities.
Sarah and her classmate from the First Nations Studies Program, Spencer Lindsay, noticed there was a lack of understanding surrounding the names, and a lack of information given to residents. They were also concerned about the absence of Musqueam representation at the site. In 2011, they were hired by Student Housing and Hospitality Services to co-chair and build a naming advisory committee for two new Totem Park houses. They also developed educational resources and facilitated staff training sessions. The committee, which included UBC staff, students, and Musqueam advisors, recommended two names they believed were both meaningful and respectful to the Musqueam Nation: həm̓ləsəm̓ and q̓ələχən. Both names are written in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, Musqueam’s ancestral language.
həm̓ləsəm̓ House and q̓ələχən House are the first two videos in the Totem Park film series. Videos for the original six houses are in development, and brief histories of each name are on the UBC Housing website.
Sarah hopes that the videos will help viewers “connect to actual stories, people, and languages, rather than a broad name.” She is pleased with the positive response to the videos, which have been shown at Jump Start, UBC’s orientation and transition program for first year international and Aboriginal students, and in classrooms and programs across campus. Sarah noted that students seemed very receptive to learning more about their residence and university.
The second project Sarah discussed was Knowing the Land Beneath Our Feet, an initiative that is being developed to provide a physical and virtual Indigenous walking tour of the UBC Vancouver campus. For this project, Sarah and Spencer are collaborating with the First Nations Studies Program (FNSP), Coordinated Arts Program (CAP), CTLT Aboriginal Initiatives, members of the Musqueam community, and other advisors. Knowing the Land Beneath Our Feet aims to educate UBC faculty, staff, students, and visitors about the Indigenous history of the campus. Sarah noted that two key objectives of the project are to get students to explore Indigenous topics and issues in their everyday lives, rather than passively consume them, and to encourage students to share stories as part of a collective responsibility. The project is being piloted in Spring 2015 with FNSP and CAP classes.
Hanae Tsukada, CTLT’s Classroom Climate and Educational Resource Developer, introduced the resource website Time and Place at UBC: Our Histories and Relations. Hanae developed the resource website, which documents key moments in UBC’s history with Aboriginal peoples.
Hanae explained that she first came to UBC as an international student from Japan, pursing her PhD in Educational Studies. The idea for the timeline developed in 2012 when she attended a symposium and learned about the history of Japanese-Canadians at UBC. Notably, during World War II, Japanese-Canadian students were forced to leave UBC for internment camps. Hanae also learned about the similarities and differences between the history of Japanese-Canadians and Aboriginal peoples; from that, she began wondering about the history of Aboriginal students at UBC.
When developing the resource, Hanae wanted to explore the historical moments in a broader context as they related to UBC, BC, and Canada. One of the timeline’s unique features is that each period is presented within three contexts: Canada/BC, UBC, and UBC Aboriginal Engagement. Hanae hopes this better reflects the complex and multifaceted nature of these events.
Hanae noted that the timeline is not a definitive list of all events, but hopes it will encourage people to critically engage with the topics. She also suggested instructors use the timeline in the classroom to embed their courses or disciplines in a historical context.
The final project discussed was the Berger Inquiry Project on the resource website Indigenous Foundations. The project was a collaboration between Amy Perreault, CTLT’s Strategist for Aboriginal Initiatives, and Drew Ann Wake, an educational video game developer and former CBC reporter who covered the Berger Inquiry hearings.
Drew Ann explained the importance of the Berger Inquiry, also known as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry. The inquiry occurred in the early 1970s when Justice Thomas R. Berger held hearings regarding a proposed natural gas pipeline down the Mackenzie Valley. The inquiry was the first to give Aboriginal people a real voice. Community hearings were held in 30 Aboriginal villages along the proposed path of the pipeline, with almost a thousand witness testimonies.
The inquiry set a historic precedence in BC’s history, and Drew Ann curated an exhibit about the Berger Inquiry to remind people of its significance. “I was afraid people were losing the memory that you can organize things and win,” she said.
The exhibit traveled to various campuses, and the next step was to create a project website, to enhance and spread the resources. The website, structured as a scrapbook, includes interviews, videos, and audios of numerous people that were involved in the inquiry, representing the diverse perspectives. It encourages learners to discuss the evidence presented and put themselves in the position of Justice Berger.
The project website, and the overall Indigenous Foundations website, aims to be a resource for people to learn more about Aboriginal cultures, politics, and histories in a digestible but meaningful manner. Drew Ann said it is a great resource for people who “need more background, but may be ashamed to ask questions.” She also noted that the website is a catalyst for further conversations. “It is a trigger for social, human interaction.”
Amy added that even in “300/400 level courses, there are some students still struggling with fundamentals,” and she hopes the website will help. Similarly, she hopes instructors will see the importance of incorporating the resources, or knowledge gained from the resources, into their classroom. As she expressed, “There’s responsibility for instructors to create a space that’s conducive to learning for all.”
The Totem Park Residence Educational Film Series, Knowing the Land Beneath Our Feet, Time and Place at UBC: Our Histories and Relations, and Indigenous Foundations all emerged as student projects, when Sarah, Hanae, and Amy were pursuing their respective degrees at UBC. They hope students will learn from, and find inspiration from these projects. Sarah adds, “We want to empower students to look carefully at what’s happening on campus.”
The next Classroom Climate session, Critical Thinking and Representation in Student Writing, will take place on February 26, 2015. The session will explore how instructors can assist students’ writing and research on Indigenous topics. Registration is now open.
This article was published in the January 2015 CTLT Newsletter, Dialogues. Below is a list of articles included in the issue:
- A Space to Learn: Reshaping the Campus Experience
- Mechanisms to Enhance Teaching in Universities: An Interview with Michael Grove
- SOILx Receives Platinum MarCom Award
- Uncovering Indigenous Stories at this “Place of Mind” (currently viewing)