The core courses in the Anishinaabe Studies program are delivered by SKG using a culture-based approach. The approach was developed in the 1960s and 1970s. When the National Indian Brotherhood released the 1972 policy paper Indian Control of Indian Education, they highlighted an ongoing education crisis in Indigenous communities in Canada. This policy paper outlined how community-driven schools, grounded in Indigenous knowledge systems and culture, were central to the healing of Indigenous communities across the nation. Culture-based education responds to this crisis in education with an integrative approach to the reclamation and revitalization of language and culture, acknowledging the distinct worldviews embedded in the Indigenous and mainstream Canadian education systems. Culture-based education promotes the understanding and integration of multiple worldviews in student learning.
The Anishinaabe Studies program incorporates valuable aspects of culture-based education to create a dynamic learning experience open to students of all cultural backgrounds, enriching Algoma University’s capacity to fulfil its special mission:
- A Foundation of Anishinaabe Knowledge
The Anishinaabe Studies program is developed with Anishinaabe knowledge, language and culture at the centre. Core courses are based in experiential learning as well as the work of Indigenous scholars, Elders and leadership. This work incorporates oral tradition as well as published scholarly work. See the description of “Anishinaabe” provided above in the section on Program Nomenclature.
- A Focus on Self Knowledge
A foundation of student-centered pedagogy encourages students to understand who they are and where they come from, exploring family and cultural connections and histories. Self knowledge is relational and fosters respect and intercultural understanding.
- A Comparative Approach Students learn about self, community and culture through comparative analysis and reflection. For example, core courses involving content on Anishinaabe philosophy, law and governance, research and education also develop students’ understanding of mainstream or dominant conceptualizations, and how these concepts shape Canadian society. Furthermore, a comparative approach is taken within the Anishinaabe course content, as students learn about differences and similarities among the many Indigenous nations of this part of the world. As the core Anishinaabe Studies courses become increasingly culturally diverse in terms of student enrolment, the comparative approach is strengthened; students bring their cultural knowledge to the classroom and enrich the cross-cultural learning.
- Program Leadership and Guidance
The Anishinaabe Studies program is delivered by Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig (SKG) through Algoma University’s Department of Modern Languages, demonstrating an important collaboration between the two institutions. The AU-SKG relationship is enshrined in the 2006 Covenant agreement. The Anishinaabe Studies program goes through the same approval and quality control measures at Algoma University as do all Algoma University programs.
The Anishinaabe Studies program involves courses from a variety of departments at Algoma University in addition to the core courses delivered with this culture-based approach. Indeed, the culture-based core courses are distinct from conventional Algoma University courses in that the knowledge foundation is Anishinaabe; however, the program as a whole is very much comparable to other 3-year programs at AU. It is also comparable to similar 3-year programs such as Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, and Indigenous Studies at Laurentian University. These programs involve foundational core courses delivered by the home department, grounded in the study of Indigenous knowledge, culture and spirituality. Students supplement these core courses with other relevant courses in sociology, linguistics, philosophy, history, anthropology, religious studies, art, and literature.