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All The Way From Norway

November 20, 2012

October 14 to 17th were very busy days for the Faculty of Education at Memorial University, as it welcomed the Steering Committee of Sámi Language and Teacher Education in Norway representing 7 universities and colleges from Northern Norway, a group of Indigenous educators from Norway for a symposium on Indigenous education.

The two groups, the Faculty of Education and the Norwegian Delegation took part in social and cultural events while on campus, exchanging a series of lectures on their respective education process for indigenous students.

Memorial Dean of Education, Dr. Kirk Anderson, felt it was an important event, as the faculty continues to strive towards greater internationalization while maximizing the diversity of its program and student population:

"We often claim we learn from each other when we have visitors. While this is often true, in this case, the visit of our Sami and Norwegian colleagues was particularly pertinent as we change the substance and dynamic of programming for Aboriginal students.," Anderson said.

"This is not just a matter for Aboriginal students but, as is the case in Norway, part of an important thrust towards embracing Indigenous understanding within our program and faculty. Sadly, our history in assimilating Indigenous peoples is very similar, some of our less than functional legislative measures have been equally meagre, but more hopefully the Sami case also demonstrates that success is achievable. We know this from our own research but hearing it from another group of international researchers and educators is particularly heartening."

Dr. Anderson also said that members of the Faculty will establish links with some of the exchange programs and we may have student visits to some of the campuses in Norway, allowing students to experience more examples of successful Indigenous education programs. This would serve to reinforce the Faculty's own efforts as it engages in – Community Based Aboriginal Teacher Education in Labrador.

Dr. Elizabeth Yeoman of the Faculty of Education also played a role in the visit, and was quite complimentary of the experience overall.

"It was wonderful hosting the Norwegian Sami Indigenous educators. We had similar histories and common concerns," she said. "They hope to establish an international network for Indigenous teacher education and we hope to be part of that so there will probably be opportunities for further exchange with them. I'm very much looking forward to working with them on [their] goals."

Aside from representatives in the Faculty of Education, Dr. Maura Hanrahan, Special Adviser to the President for Aboriginal Affairs presented to the delegation and met with them to discuss possible initiatives. Hanrahan felt the timing was particularly important and contributed to the success of the event.

"The visit of the Sami delegation was timely in that community-based Indigenous teacher education in Labrador is a priority for Memorial," she said. "We were able to have useful exchanges with Sami educators and to share ideas about best practices and so on. We discovered that we are on the same path in many ways with similar opportunities and challenges.

"Today, after many years of internalized shame and cultural suppression, [the Sami] are experiencing the same kind of cultural pride and commitment that we are seeing among the Indigenous peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador."