On Friday, 30th September, we commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and Orange Shirt Day. Various events have been organized in honour of this day at McMaster and in the community. While campus remains open, no classes have been scheduled.
We recognize that our teaching and research are rooted in Western thought and practice, which have unjustly excluded Indigenous ways of knowing. In our Faculty of Science, discussion and reflection, although nascent, are elucidating the powerful perspectives that Indigenous science could impart to both research and the curriculum. In this, we are guided by the Indigenous Strategy Directions report from the McMaster University Indigenous Education Council and McMaster Indigenous Research Institute.
At the Spring Faculty of Science retreat, we learnt from Sarah Howdle, PhD candidate, about the Prison Education Project led by Prof. Savage Bear, Director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute. The Prison Education Project increases access to post-secondary education for incarcerated Indigenous peoples, and includes the Walls to Bridges Program, which brings University courses into correctional settings. The first McMaster Walls to Bridges course entitled “Indigenous Studies 2IR3, Indigenous Resurgence” will be taught in January 2023 by Prof. Savage Bear and Sara Howdle, PhD Candidate. Prof. Bear also led the creation of “Indigenous Canada“, an impactful massive open online course (MOOC) offered by the University of Alberta. We heard from Dr. Jessica Hernandez, author of “Fresh Banana Leaves” and a Binnizá & Maya Ch’orti’ scholar and interdisciplinary scientist based in the Pacific Northwest.
We are also learning from, and partnering with student advocates like Brooke Fearns, an Anishinaabe Yr. IV student in Human Behaviour Program and celebrating the success of alumni such as Alexander Young, a Métis, visual storyteller and graduate of the iSci program and Jordan Carrier, a Plains Cree Woman and prominent Hamilton resident and community organizer. Perspectives by Prof. Robert Cockcroft and Prof. Gita Ljubicic highlight the knowledge gained from Indigenous scholars and collaborators in fields ranging from Indigenous astronomy to community engaged research for northern sustainability.
As we mark this day of Truth and Reconciliation and re-examine the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission including its 94 Calls to Action, we must also continue to truthfully examine the roles that scientists must play in taking steps towards reconciliation.