Tuesday, 16 March 2010

More on: Yellowknives Dechinta Bush University Centre for Research & Learning

RT @Northern_Clips: Dechinta Bush University Centre for Research & Learning #YZF #NWT http://ow.ly/1mYOR website #1stNation #Dene

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: George Lessard <mediamentor@gmail.com>
Date: 16 March 2010 10:40
Subject: Yellowknives Dechinta Bush University Centre for Research & Learning

On the traditional lands of the Yellowknives Dene First Nations, Dechinta Bush University Centre for Research & Learning




This spring, a pilot semester of Dechinta Bush University Centre for Research and Learning will see up to sixteen northern indigenous students earning fifteen credits through the University of Alberta's native studies program. Located on the traditional lands of the Yellowknives Dene First Nations, five hours by snow machine from the capital, the field school will teach a broad range of courses relevant to a northern skill set. Participants will calculate the lodge's diesel carbon footprint, set up micro–wind power, and operate composting toilets. They'll study science as a methodology and traditional ecological knowledge as a cosmology. Law, writing, resource management, and political history will be taught by a roster of heavy hitters, including David Hik and possibly Severn Cullis-Suzuki.


Born in Yellowknife in 1974, Coulthard grew up in nearby Norman Wells, where his father owned a small business, and spent summers with his extended family in the Dene community of Dettah. When he was around ten years old, his parents moved him to Kelowna, BC, so he could take advantage of better educational opportunities there. Instead, he found the atmosphere at his largely Christian, upper-class high school, located next to a major reserve, antagonistic. "I was never very good in high school, and I took a break for most of the 1990s," he says apologetically. In fact, he spent the latter half of the decade agitating for political change in East Vancouver.

But around the time Irlbacher-Fox was founding a reading group on indigenous rights and governance at Cambridge, Coulthard decided to give school another chance. He registered at Langara College and climbed his way to a Ph.D., defended this winter at the University of Victoria. His recent work posits "recognition" — of indigenous peoples, of rights to land, of self-government — as an empty promise that perpetuates oppression. It's the kind of political theory that informs Irlbacher-Fox's fieldwork, but Coulthard's application is more radical. "My involvement [in Dechinta] is contingent on making sure Yellowknives Dene interests are met and their sovereignty respected," he says.

The university's success is contingent, in turn, on how this tension — between aboriginal and academic interests, theory and action — is handled. It's a tremendous challenge, matched only by the commitment of those involved. In Yellowknife, Irlbacher-Fox has already thrown herself into writing a new book, using attachment theory to explore the Dene people's fundamental connection to the land. Coulthard will use his semester in the territory to explore that connection through his young son and daughter, returning home to Dettah.

1 comment:

  1. See the October 2009 issue of Literary Review of Canada, "Listen to the North" by John Ralston Saul:

    "Nunavut is working hard to get itself out from under the Alberta school curriculum, which shapes Artic schools in a way that undermines Inuktituk and an integrated northern life.

    "Perhaps mos problematic is that there is still o university in the Canadian North....

    "There are no intellectual centres based in the North at which students can gather and then make their way. Why? Because they are all in the South. And public money ... keeps it this way.

    "This is a fundamental Canadian failure. It is a failure of our intellectual class. What we have is a colonial structure."