Artwork copyright: Don McIntyre
University of Lethbridge teacher and researcher Don McIntyre from the Dhillon School of Business has spent years creating safe space for conversation around a topic that has sometimes been associated with uncertainty. Now McIntyre, a member of the Wolf Clan from Lake Timiskaming First Nation, and the University of Lethbridge are making available his Open Studies course, Conversational Indigenization: Reconciling Reconciliation to students and communities at large.
As a former corporate lawyer, McIntyre found that he was continually clarifying language. This was never more so than around the topics Reconciliation and Indigenization. It became clear to him that a level of certainty is needed, particularly from a business and governance perspective, and that the lack of clarity on terms often drown out Indigenous voices and important conversations. “Some people talk about never using the term ‘Indian’ to describe Indigenous people, but Indian is still a term of law in Canada that has associated rights and restrictions.” McIntyre’s hopes in broadening exposure to this course is to see everyone in the Dhillon School of Business, everyone in the University and everyone in the community at large feeling more comfortable about terms and narratives in order to address the real conversation surrounding Reconciliation.
Dr. Shelly Wismath, dean of the School of Liberal Education where the course will be housed, says that they are pleased to be offering the course which is an important part of the University of Lethbridge’s commitment to Indigenization. The School of Liberal Education is known as a place to explore new ways of thinking and Wismath says the course fits well with the foundational teaching and learning philosophy of liberal education.
“This approach encourages a broad and integrated education that encompasses various world-views and ways of knowing, both academic and real-world, while building a sustainable commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion of all groups in our communities.”
Aside from clarifying terms, Conversational Indigenization: Reconciling Reconciliation will also examine the core of Reconciliation including addressing past wrongs, what it might look like to make amends, and ultimately improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Students will address obvious and latent power struggles, colonial ideologies and discuss potential means of dismantling presently-held structures, McIntyre says those conversations can come with uncomfortable feelings and even fear. He admits, “it’s a scary conversation, but it doesn’t have to be.”
McIntyre’s teaching style engages students with a unique mix of conversation and storytelling, building a safe place where people can express their opinions, add nuance to their ideas and gain understanding. He weaves in traditional and contemporary Indigenous stories, alongside traditional and contemporary Canadian stories, building a bridge to empathy and alignment.
“I want to hear what everyone has to say. It’s the only way we can unpackage this complicated space between us,” McIntyre explains. “I aim to engage and affirm people in what they know, and in what they think that they know.”
The important piece then, is what students do with the stories and conversations they’ve encountered during class. McIntyre quotes Thomas King, “stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous… you have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told.” McIntyre explains there are a lot of stories out there; Canada’s, those of the Aboriginal nations, traditional, contemporary, some true and some not so true. We have to reconcile our stories as Canadians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in order to move forward and create a better, more certain Canada for all.
Though the conversations surrounding Indigenization and Reconciliation continue to change, it is important that the broadest possible spectrum of people are a part of the dialogue. It is a conversation that must happen across all sectors in Alberta, across our country and in the world. As McIntyre says, it’s a conversation we must get comfortable with, and even confident in. “I personally don’t want anyone left behind,” he says. “I want every person to engage in this conversation and leave with an openness to change. When dialogue is continuous and inclusivity is assured, real change can happen.”
To register for the Lib Ed 1850 course Conversational Indigenization: Reconciling Reconciliation being offered in Spring 2021, students, alumni or community members can go to https://www.uleth.ca/ross/registration/register/open-studies.