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Self-directed learning. Indigenous MOOCs.

“Who are you and where are you from?”

A simple question that should be simple to answer. - until you sit down to reflect upon the unspoken layers hidden in the question. Are you from a specific area of town? A different city or province in Canada? A different country or continent? Are you a the descendent of a colonizer? Are you a settler? An arrivant (Byrd, 2011)? Indigenous?

And what if the question isn’t asking for geographic markers, but rather #relationships to the land, people and surroundings? Do I know you? Your family? Are we connected?

Who am I? Where am I from?

Many settler, immigrant, and arrivant Canadians, of which I am one, lack familiarity with the history of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (Hardwick, 2018). Many past and existing settler Canadian institutions and government policies, biased in favour of colonial beliefs and values, rely heavily on settler ignorance and a process of “othering” Indigenous peoples through cultural #myths and stereotyping (Battell Lowman & Barker, 2015; Regan, 2010).

Who are we? Where are we from?

Access to Indigenous perspectives of history and culture has been suggested as a method for challenging existing perceptions of what it means to be Canadian along with the socio-economic foundations which support the continuation of settler colonial #systems (TRC, 2015). Updating kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) and post-secondary curriculums to include Indigenous perspectives and history may help promote a cultural shift in future generations (TRC 2015), but how do you facilitate socio-cultural change, decolonization, and reconciliation in settler Canadians no longer attending school?

Online courses, offering free and open to enrolment by anyone at any time, such as the University of Alberta’s (U of A) Indigenous Canada and the University of BC's Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education massive open online courses (#MOOC), may provide the solution. Courses such as the one offered by the U of A were created from an Indigenous #epistemological view of interconnectedness and belonging (Bear, T., personal communication)[1], the course addresses a gap in education and awareness experienced by many Canadians (Gebhard, 2017; Hardwick, 2018). As similar courses are developed and released across the country, I wonder who is enrolling in these courses and what impact, if any, courses are having on participant’s self-perception and their attitudes and behaviours towards Indigenous peoples?

[1]Dr. Tracy Bear, is a Nehiyaw' iskwew (Cree woman) academic and member of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation in Northern Saskatchewan. An Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta, Dr. Bear was the project manager of the design team for the Indigenous Canada MOOC and original lead instructor for the course at its launch. --

Battell Lowman, E., & Barker, A. J. (2015). Settler. Identify and colonialism in 21stcentury Canada. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing

Byrd, J. A. (2011). The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Gebhard, A. (2017). Reconcilation or racialization? Contemporary discources about residential schools in the Canadian prairies. Canadian Journal of Education, 41(1), 1-25.

Hardwick, J. (2018). Dismantling narratives: Settler ignorance, Indigenous literature and the development of a decolonizing discourse. TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 33(9), 99-118. Retrieved from

Truth and Reconciliation Canada. (2015). Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future: Summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Retrieved from

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Su-san Koch
Su-san Koch
Jul 17, 2019

Thanks Sheelagh for this great post and for posing the key question that frames all settler relationships with indigenous peoples. This question is always the starting point and your answer to it can reveal ignorance of our history of treaties— especially if we fail to state our family background i.e. European and to acknowledge the treaty territory on which you reside. Further the question of how settlers who are no longer in school learn about First peoples is central to why I started this commons and am working on a wiki prototype — woke Settlers need a safe space in which to learn easily even if it is only one new fact a day— there is so much to lear…

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