OISE alumni were front and centre at OISE Spring Reunion for a talk by Dr. Suzanne Stewart, ‘Indigenizing Education.’ The lecture is part of the OISE Alumni Association’s ongoing Alumni Leader Series and has become a popular feature of Spring Reunions. Suzanne, of OISE’s department of Applied Psychology and Human Development is special advisor to the dean on Aboriginal education.
The lecture opened with a traditional Aboriginal smudge ceremony performed by Elder Cat (Mark) Criger (Traditional Elder for UTM; Traditional Teacher, First Nations House, U of T; Standing Elder for the Council for Aboriginal Initiatives for the U of T) who also conducted a traditional closing, a first for OISE’s Spring Reunion event.
Suzanne spoke of the challenges of nation-wide exclusion in schools, colleges and universities of Aboriginal wisdom. “Aboriginal education is important to all Canadians,” she said, adding that there is still work to be done on including Two-Spirited (Aboriginal LGBTQ) history in curricula. “I’m disappointed in how slowly our institutions are making changes but what is hopeful is the number of allies who understand the necessity of this being taught. Today’s teacher candidates are hungry for information on First Nations history and issues and we must provide the tools.”...That's where we differ, Suzanne. I see absolutely no place for Two-Spirited history in public school curricula.
Update: What's a "smudge ceremony"? Apparently, it involves burning herbs to dispel all the bad stuff:
Our Native elders have taught us that before a person can be healed or heal another, one must be cleansed of any bad feelings, negative thoughts, bad spirits or negative energy - cleansed both physically and spiritually. This helps the healing to come through in a clear way, without being distorted or sidetracked by negative "stuff" in either the healer or the client. The elders say that all ceremonies, tribal or private, must be entered into with a good heart so that we can pray, sing, and walk in a sacred manner, and be helped by the spirits to enter the sacred realm.The sacred realm? At OISE? Now, that's funny. Question: did OISE have to get special dispensation from the Toronto fire department to conduct this ritual?