Bob Lovelace and Richard Day, professors in the Department of Global Development Studies, run Re-indigenizing People and Environments, an experiential learning course. (University Communications)
By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer
For a week this August a group of students will live in the woods north of Kingston.
Re-indigenizing People and Environments, an experiential learning course in the Department of Global Development Studies, has a small group of students engage with Indigenous theory and practice while learning to forage for food, build shelter and understand their environment.
The course, now entering its second year, is taught by Bob Lovelace and Richard Day, professors in the Department of Global Development Studies. While students sleep every night in a structure they’ll build themselves, Mr. Lovelace’s house is nearby in the event of an emergency. Of course, they get some lessons in wilderness safety too.
“Our re-indigenization course encourages students to foster a knowledge of their surroundings, which is something that is often lost in modern society,” says Mr. Lovelace. “With this course we hope to foster greater reliance on oneself, one’s community and the land.”
Besides building shelter, students will learn the basics of hunting, trapping and sustainable approaches to agriculture. The lessons learnt by last year’s student cohort inspired them to bring the course back to Kingston. They created the Sydenham Street United Church Community Garden out of their desire to apply what they’d learnt about eco-friendly farming.
“We’re not preaching to the students that they should adopt a particular lifestyle,” says Mr. Lovelace, “but to explore the basics of an alternative way of living and to examine their personal values.”
Richard Day says the course is especially effective at imparting practical lessons alongside the theoretical.
“Critical thinking is essential to this course, not just in terms of the decisions the students have to make about food and shelter, but in the discussions we encourage about what it means to be a settler,” he says. “We hope it serves as a transformative learning experience and it’s great to see those who participated last year taking what they learnt and turning it into community involvement.”
Re-indigenization has a more traditional academic component as well. Prior to trekking out into the woods students read books and articles, watch documentaries and participate in online discussion with one another about the content through Moodle. With guidance from the instructors, they write a research paper about a course-related topic once they’re back in Kingston.
“There’s a feeling and a way of being that can be accessed in nature that’s been found to make healthier, happier people,” says Dr. Day. “I think more people are going hiking and camping to try to get in touch with this feeling. This course isn’t summer camp or a walk in the woods, but an engagement with the practical challenges and politics of living in a way that would be more in keeping with traditional Indigenous practices.”
Promoting a deeper understanding and broader engagement with Indigenous culture, the course is a welcome addition to university’s offerings.
“Queen’s has a deep commitment to Indigenous learning and this re-indigenization course is a perfect example of the possibilities that come from embracing this corpus of knowledge,” says Gordon Smith, Vice Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science. “As demonstrated with the Indigenous Studies minor degree plan, the Faculty of Arts and Science is dedicated to building this as an interdisciplinary field of study.