The Department of Indigenous Studies brings together for the first time in CBU’s history, full and part-time faculty members who are devoted to programs designed to meet the needs of Mi’kmaq students and to introduce all CBU students and faculty to this region’s rich indigenous culture. A unique focus of the Department of Indigenous Studies is the provision of courses on campus and in Mi’kmaq communities.
Over time, it might include cross-appointed faculty members whose home is a different department but who can contribute to Unama’ki College’s educational goals. New courses and perhaps even programs could eventually reflect the solidarity of Mi’kma’ki with the efforts of Indigenous peoples elsewhere – in Canada and across the globe – to preserve and enhance their cultures. At present, though, department members deliver two important programs both on-campus and in communities.
In the 1980s, faculty members such as Sister Dorothy Moore, Murdena Marshall, and Stephanie Inglis established Native Studies courses at CBU within the Department of Humanities. A decision was later made to transform these courses into what became an academic Concentration and Major in the discipline of Mi’kmaq Studies. In the 1990s, Mi’kmaq Studies faculty moved to the Department of Heritage & Culture (within one of CBU’s academic Schools). After the addition of department members, Eleanor Johnson and Joe B. Marshall, and with the assistance of language specialists in the community, the spectrum of Mi’kmaq Studies courses offered today was set: language, linguistics, governance, history and culture.
In the 1990s, Biology professor Dr. Cheryl Bartlett collaborated with Mi’kmaq Elders such as Albert and Murdena Marshall and many others within the university and community to create an “Integrative Science” program. This program aimed to bring together Aboriginal and Western worldviews into a mutually beneficial relationship. Its scientific and educational value has been widely recognized and the groundbreaking work of the CRC research team has been funded by agencies such as the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CHIR) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). For more information on Integrative Science see the Institute for Integrative Science & Health.
In 1990, CBU, in collaboration with Aboriginal Communities developed an innovative university program to help mature students who were unable to attend conventional classes due to family commitments. Within three years, more than 100 students aged 18-55 were studying full time both on campus and in their home communities. As well as sending educators to the Aboriginal communities, CBU was the first University in Canada to hold their graduation ceremony on Aboriginal territory in Wagmatcook. Since then, graduation ceremonies have been held in Membertou and Indian Brook.
Unama’ki College is offering courses in six communities: Eskasoni, Chapel Island, Waycobah, Wagmatcook, Millbrook, and Indian Brook. Faculty members teaching Indigenous Studies and Integrative Science courses in those communities now have a home in which the distinctive needs of students and faculty in these courses can be addressed.