The first event in a new aboriginal speaker’s series hosted at Memorial University will shed light on the complex intersection of education, imperialism and Aboriginals.
The Eve and Edward Roberts Aboriginal Speaker’s Series is sponsored by Lt.-Gov. Edward Roberts and Mrs. Roberts, in collaboration with the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Arts. The series will bring to St. John’s annually a speaker whose work in raising awareness of Aboriginal people’s issues has had a positive impact in Canada.
“Canada’s First Nations and the Aboriginal people of our province have faced tremendous adversity for centuries, and continue to struggle against a lack of understanding and awareness,” said Lt.-Gov. Roberts. “In recent years, a great many Aboriginal scholars, activists, artists and leaders have worked to ensure that the concerns of Aboriginal people are heard.”
“This Aboriginal lecture series provides an opportunity to bring experts from around the country to Memorial University to examine issues that are very complex and very important, not just for Aboriginal people but for all of us,” Lt.-Gov. Roberts continued.
“These issues are timely and relevant for Newfoundland and Labrador, with the creation of Nunatsiavut Government and the current negotiations with the Innu for a land claims agreement.”
The inaugural lecture on May 16 will feature Dr. Marie Battiste, a well-known author and expert on Aboriginal education, languages, teachers and indigenous knowledge.
Dr. Battiste’s lecture will explore what she calls “cognitive imperialism” in education, and the ongoing process of “decolonizing” and reinterpreting education to more fully incorporate diverse cultures and to build greater capacity in all people.
According to Dr. Battiste, “cognitive imperialism” is what indigenous people have experienced as they have been schooled in an educational system that did not incorporate their culture, language, customs, values, history or people. In recent decades, she says, the antidote to that conventional education was thought to exist in policies that embraced diversity and multiculturalism.
“The approach has been very ‘us and them’ which has allowed the Canadian public to say ‘this isn’t about me: they need the help, they’re deficient and need transitional programs,’” explained Dr. Battiste, who has spent decades examining education and identifying layers of problems.
A Mi’kmaq from the Potlo’tek First Nation in Cape Breton, N.S., Dr. Battiste is now the academic director of the Aboriginal Education Research Centre in the College of Education at University of Saskatchewan.
Through her lecture, she hopes to encourage her audience to look across the divide that separates cultures, and understand the role of privilege, racism and cognitive imperialism in our world. She will also share a vision of how education could be redefined to shed the limitations of standardized criteria and foster individual growth.
“All parents have the same desire for their children to succeed in life, to learn all that they can and to build on their own strengths and capacities,” explained Dr. Battiste. “There is a way to introduce an educational system...without the extra baggage of deficiency, or prejudice, or systemic racism that prevents people from becoming fully themselves.”
The Eve and Edward Roberts Aboriginal Speaker Series lecture Cognitive Imperialism in Education and the Power of Decolonization will take place on May 16 at 7 p.m. in the Petro Canada Hall.