Honoring the Old Ways Through a New Lens: Indigenous Education at Grande Prairie Regional College
Authored by: Rebecca Morin
Date: June 16, 2020
I’d like to honor the land we are on, Treaty 8 Territory, land and home to the Beaver, Cree, Dene, Métis peoples. I would like to thank the Indigenous communities of this region for their care and stewardship of these lands since time immemorial.
Canada is this amazing country with values of respect and tolerance. We are a peace keeping nation. We take immigrants, and refugees in from all over the world – we are extraordinary. We are also a country with significant systemic problems when it comes to Indigenous peoples and history. What happens to our cloak of goodness when faced with statistics, data, and reports that Indigenous peoples have a different kind of reality in Canada? It is the hardest conversation we can have as Canadians, and clearly the most difficult veil to pull back.
My name is Rebecca Morin. I am Cree from the South of the Slave Lake in Northwest Territories. I am a direct descendant of an Indigenous Cree Grandfather and a White Settler Grandmother.
Starling introduction? Just let that sit with you.
These terms will attract criticism at different levels because they challenge us to think about race, and how some of us have never had to worry about, or paid attention to it; however, it’s a great opener to an uncomfortable landscape – that if we allow, can be the birth of learning the realities of Canada’s history.
In the Fall of 2017, I continued to embark on my educational investment, and enrolled in five courses at Grande Prairie Regional College. One of these was Indigenous Studies 2300, a blended learning course which was delivered via online and land-based learning.
This experience was paramount because I have been a learner all my life, and for the first time in fifty years, I had the opportunity to learn about my history in a cutting-edge academic setting. It also was the first time I experienced having an instructor of Indigenous descent. This course was created to fulfill a much-needed requirement – learning how our racial and cultural backgrounds influence the way we see, understand, and work with each other.
"This experience was paramount, because I have been a learner all my life and for the first time in fifty years, I had the opportunity to learn about my history in a cutting-edge academic setting. It also was the first time I experienced having an instructor of Indigenous descent."
I implore all learners with a future career path that leads to social work, education, and nursing to take all the Indigenous Studies courses. I call in GPRC to the circle of Truth and Reconciliation, to market, and promote these courses to become core in continuing education.
It is fluid, in that it is at your own convenience, yet it is structured. The online Instructors, and the community that is created amongst the other learners provides an opportunity to an online dialogue to openly discuss biases or stereotypes, with the knowledge that we are being led into a space of safety and honor.
Our class came to end in December of 2017 but the students remain bound with a common thread of having shared a uniquely traditional academic experience. The champions are the online instructors, the Elders, and the helpers, who together unified the learning to be most thought provoking and emotionally charged. The instructors, are the change we, the generations of Indigenous People, have long waited for: the scholarly institutions to rise up and show up with tools that honor our traditions and provide the narrative that will sustain us and live for generations to come. It preserves without any amount of dilution our old ways while sharing it in a language all can understand.
"I implore all learners with a future career path that leads to social work, education, and nursing to take all the Indigenous Studies courses. I call in GPRC to the circle of Truth and Reconciliation, to market, and promote these courses to become core in continuing education."
I originally wrote this blog in 2017 for GPRC. It was never published. Until now. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I am too diverse for the diversity hire. In my three years as a student of Indigenous descent at GPRC, I along with others, advocated for these studies. Each spring came with the threat of it ending up on the cutting room floor.
In the spirit of full transparency this advocacy began for me in the early 90's at GPRC. I was a student then, and the road to my degree wasn’t paved. I would go to school, then work to survive, then go to school.
I am currently in my third year of my first degree.
About the Author
Rebecca Morin, is an Indigenous Métis mother of two and Kookum of two. She is from Vale Island on the south shores of the Great Slave Lake in the NWT. Rebecca has recently finished her second year as a student at the Grande Prairie Regional College and will be entering a Bachelor of Social Work program this fall with the University of Calgary.