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As universities ‘Indigenize,’ some see a threat to open inquiry – Vancouver Sun

May 25, 2018

On paper, Mount Saint Vincent University professor Martha Walls seems perfectly suited to teach a course called Selected Topics in North American History: Residential Schools. An expert on First Nations history, colonialism and gender, she has crafted a curriculum giving priority to Indigenous narratives and primary sources.

But according to her critics, Walls is missing one important qualification: she is not Indigenous. And when news spread that a “settler” would be teaching students at the Halifax university about residential schools next fall it prompted an immediate backlash.

To Rebecca Thomas, a Mi’kmaq woman and Halifax’s poet laureate, assigning Walls the course perpetuated the notion “that non-Indigenous people have the right and expertise to speak on Indigenous topics.” The proper voice is that of someone with “the lived experience of what it’s like to be a product of these systems within Canada,” she told the Canadian Press. Patricia Doyle-Bedwell, a Mi’kmaq woman and Dalhousie University professor, said the choice of Walls highlights the lack of space for Indigenous professors and “Indigenous knowledge perspectives” in Canadian universities.

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