ACCUTE conference

From the Conference: “Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future”

Report from “Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future”

by Manina Jones

[Ed. note: We are happy to publish, here and in our Summer newsletter (see here), ACCUTE President Manina Jones’ report on the “Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future” event that ACCUTE cosponsored at the recent Congress in Calgary.  Please offer your comments and thoughts on how ACCUTE can best respond to the TRC Report, below.] 

It was my privilege to attend a public forum at Congress 2016, hosted by ACCUTE in collaboration with the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS), the Canadian Association for Social Work Education, the Canadian Historical Association, the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA), and the Canadian Sociological Association. “Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future” was organized to foster discussion about how the humanities and social sciences can act on the challenges posed by the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). The session was opened by Marlene Brant Castellano (Trent University, co-Chair Oversight Committee for the RCAP Anniversary Initiative); and Stephen Toope (President of the CFHSS). This was followed by a powerful key note address by Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and member of the Board of Directors of the CFHSS. Long active in research on the history of residential schooling and other government policies and practices, and vigourously involved in contemporary issues around child protection and Indigenous children’s rights, Dr. Blackstock approached the theme of reconciliation through her discipline of Social Work, but she challenged scholars in the humanities and social sciences to think about the founding of our disciplines and their role in the oppression of Indigenous people. At the conclusion of her discussion about the links between social change and scholarship, Blackstock urged scholars not just to produce research in the spirit of reconciliation, but to have the courage to hold government and society to account for the implications of that work.

The plenary session also featured a panel featuring representatives of the six co-sponsoring scholarly associations. For ACCUTE, this forum was an ideal occasion to draw on the research and teaching strengths of its members and to work in coalition with the Indigenous Literary Studies Association (ILSA). ACCUTE was thus represented by a presentation co-authored by Linda Morra (ACCUTE Campus Rep, English at Bishop’s University) and Deanna Reder (President of ILSA, Departments of First Nations Studies and English at SFU), delivered by Deanna. ILSA is a new society (a member of the CFHSS as of Congress 2016) with, as Deanna put it, “a commitment not only to promote the study of Indigenous literatures, but also to Indigenize literary method; and to talk about our responsibilities to Indigenous writers, students, and communities seriously by developing accessible resources, by uncovering and promoting Indigenous writing, and by integrating Indigenous understandings into our analyses.”

Linda and Deanna observed that while ACCUTE has hosted events and panels on Indigenous topics, the TRC calls to action should prompt us to make the Indigenization of Departments of English across Canada a priority. In response to such calls, they proposed that ACCUTE should use its experience in advocacy to:

  1. Promote Indigenous protocols, scholars, scholarship, programs and courses/students and contribute to the development of Indigenous scholars, which means supporting mentorship at every level.
  2. Host regular discussions, panels, and roundtables on Indigenizing the discipline.
  3. Create curriculum about residential schools, treaties, literatures by Aboriginal authors and Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies.

ACCUTE might “begin with an assessment of how many Indigenous literature experts each college and university has—and not just assume that Canadianists or Americanists can teach in this subject area, even though these allies are vital.” Such expert scholars “can best promote the studies of Indigenous literatures and … would be able to train a new generation of literary scholars.” Deanna and Linda ultimately suggested that this initiative – in line, I would add, with the CPSA’s striking of a committee to address the terms of the TRC – could develop an articulation of best practices to foster space within the discipline for Indigenous literatures, scholars, and students.

The main session of “Sharing the Land” was followed by break-out group discussions on key themes led by noted scholars, including nation-to-nation relationships (Mark Dockstator, First Nations University of Canada), the well-being of Indigenous children (Blackstock), Indigenizing education (Jan Hare, Indigenous Education, UBC), the power of the arts in healing and reconciliation (Jonathan Dewar, Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre).

On behalf of ACCUTE, I’d like to thank Deanna and Linda for their contributions to this important event. I hope it will stimulate a continuing conversation about how our research, teaching, and institutional structures can cultivate respectful and productive relationships.

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