Sitting in my First Nations Studies class, I am often lead to believe that everything I know about my culture as a non-Indigenous individual is flawed.
The first few weeks of class were difficult- it is hard to confront your firmly held beliefs regarding the country you know and love.
I’m often shocked by the alternative views proposed by the students of my class, man of who are of First Nations descent.
The racism, hate, and the cruelty that, previously unbeknownst to me, they continue to face on a daily basis is an aspect of their lives that they have had to accept.
Before beginning the course, I had often questioned why such disparity existed between First Nations individuals and “Western-Canadian” society. I also didn’t understand the pride that many first nations people held towards their culture as members of autonomous nations within Canada.
Many Indigenous people in Canada do not associate themselves as Canadian citizens. A great number of First Nations peoples consider themselves to be members of their First Nation, and will not be assimilated.
An anecdote my professor gave to the class earlier in the year was this:
The USA and China are overwhelmingly influential to Canada as economic partners. Say, if one day, China decided to invade Canada and take over. The Chinese government offered you the right to a “proper” Chinese education, and encouraged you to shed your Canadian identity. Would you give up being Canadian? Would you consider yourself to be Chinese? This is the struggle many First Nations people face when looking at their own identity.
I had never been taught about First Nations issues in such a way. As an anthropologist, the methods of research by those in the field are constantly being called in to question in the class. Not only this, but the actions of my country and its contemporary governing body consistently fall under fire as well.
Although it was neither myself, nor relatives of mine who started this abusive environment towards indigenous peoples, we all benefit from the suffering of past and present First Nations groups.
This being said, the goal of the class is not to focus solely on the wrongdoings of Western society, but rather to provide students with an idea of contemporary issues facing First Nations individuals. The goal is to dispel myths surrounding Indigenous culture in Canada, and to help even a small portion of students feel more able to help fight stereotypes facing Indigenous populations.
I urge every student, from any background, to take a First Nations Studies class during their time in university. It has truly challenged me to expend and mould my way of interpreting the world around me.