Download the Course Outline as a PDF – Learning from Knowledge Keepers

Learning from the Knowledge Keepers of Mi’kma’ki MIKM 2701

January 2016

Mondays, 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Royal Bank Lecture Theatre (CE 258), at Cape Breton University or Via Livestreaming Options or video archives.

Course Facilitators: Stephen Augustine, MA Dean of Unama’ki College and Aboriginal Learning Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Phone: 902-563-1827| Email:

Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, PhD Canada Research Chair, Determinants of Healthy Communities Assistant Professor, Community Health Department of Nursing, Cross-Appointed with Indigenous Studies Phone: 902-563-1949 | Email:

Instructor Office Hours: By appointment.

We are pleased to welcome all students and participants to the course, whether taking for credit, joining us on the CBU Campus, or joining via live-streaming technology.

Wela’liek & welcome!

Course Description

On June 3, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released its executive summary based on a 6- year process of understanding the lasting legacies of the historical and intergenerational traumas inflicted on Indigenous peoples in Canada through the residential school system. On December 15, 2015, the TRC released the full Final Report, comprised of six volumes and thousands of pages of testimonies from survivors. A number of the TRC’s 94 recommendations put forward called for institutions of higher education to work with Indigenous peoples to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and ways of learning through the eyes of local traditional knowledge keepers and Elders into the curriculum, and to put a significant focus on enhancing intercultural learning and understanding. This course responds to this call, and endeavours to create the foundation for a permanent and required course offering for students at Cape Breton University, as well as the interested public, to learn about the rich cultures, ceremonies, history, knowledge, ways of knowing, and wisdom of Mi’kmaq peoples in Unama’ki and Mi’kma’ki. This course provides an exciting introduction to Mi’kmaq history, culture, and ways of knowing, while attempting to answer some of the calls from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission to incorporate Indigenous knowledge, wisdom, and culture into higher education.

Topics covered will include the Mi’kmaq Creation story, oral history and traditions, Indigenous governance, the ongoing legacies of residential schools and subsequent impacts on health and wellbeing, the impacts of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, the importance of the land to Mi’kmaq culture, and moving from challenges to strengths and resilience within Mi’kmaq communities. While the focus of this course is on Mi’kma’ki, the learning and knowledge shared throughout the classes have resonance and relevance across the country.

This course will provide students with a broad overview of issues related to Mi’kmaq people in Mi’kma’ki. Students will develop a strong sense of the complex factors that contribute to, or challenge, Indigenous knowledge, culture and history, as well as an understanding of the underlying cultural and spiritual practices that frame Indigenous understandings of the effects of colonialism and reconciliation.

Specifically, this course will emphasize:

  • synthesis and integration of knowledge across a spectrum of topics and themes relating to Mi’kmaq history, culture, and ways of knowing;
  • learning in multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives; • analytical and critically-reflective thinking, writing, and research;
  • critical analysis of complex problems linked to enduring histories of residential schools and colonial processes.

Course Overview & Learning Approach

This course has one 2.5 hour class per week. Each class will be primarily dedicated to students learning from guest lectures and knowledge-holders. All course readings and materials will be made available through this website. This course will also emphasize the development of analytical thinking and writing skills, the synthesizing of knowledge across disciplines, and critical reflection, and these skills will be integrated into the curriculum and the assignments throughout the semester.

Course Readings

There will be a series of academic articles, reports, documents, and multi-media items assigned for each week. These resources will serve to complement and further ground the concepts and materials discussed in class, and will form the basis for discussion. The articles and readings will be available on the course website. These readings are required.

In addition, there is one required text for this course. Note: we will be reading this book over weeks three and four.

1. King, T. (2003). The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chapters 1-3.

Additional Resources

The following materials may be useful resources for you throughout this course, and are excellent and inspiring works on Indigenous issues in Canada. These are not required readings or part of the official course content, but are here to be enjoyed.

They may also be helpful in your assignments, and we encourage you to take full advantage of these resources in your blog post and final paper. This is by no means an exhaustive list – there are many amazing resources out there, so have fun exploring!

  • Battiste, M. Ed. (2000). Reclaiming Indigenous Voice & Vision. Vancouver: UBC Press.
  • Battiste, M. (2013). Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing Ltd.
  • Chamberlin, J. (2004). If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground. Toronto: Vintage Canada.
  • Coulthard, G. (2014). Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Vancouver: UBC Press.
  • Kinew, W. (2015). The Reason You Walk. Toronto, Viking.
  • King, Thomas. (2012). The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Doubleday.
  • Kirmayer, L. and Valaskakis, G, eds. (2009). Healing Traditions: The Mental Health of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.
  • Menzies, P. and Lavallée, L. (2014). Journey to Healing: Aboriginal People with Addiction and Mental Health Issues. Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
  • Paul, D. (2006). We Were Not the Savages: Collision between European and Native American Civilizations. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.
  • Simpson, A. (2014). Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Simpson, A. and Smith, A., Eds. (2014). Theorizing Native Studies. Durham, NC, Duke University Press.
  • Simpson, L. (2011). Dancing on our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg re-creation, resurgence, and a new emergence. Winnipeg, ARP.
  • Simpson, L. (2013). Islands of Decolonial Love. Winnipeg, ARP.
  • Simpson, L., Ed. (2008). Lighting the Eighth Fire: The Liberation, Resurgence, and Protection of Indigenous Nations. Winnipeg, ARP.
  • Simpson, L. (2013). The Gift is in the Making: Anishinaabeg Stories. Winnipeg: Portage and Main Pr.
  • The Kino-nda-niimi Collective. (2014). The Winter we Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement. Winnipeg: ARP.
  • Waldram, J, Herring, D. and Young, K. (2006). Aboriginal Health in Canada: Historical, Cultural, and Epidemiological Perspectives. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Williams, R. (2012). Savage Anxieties: The Invention of Western Civilization. Palgrave Macmillan Trade.
  • Wilson, S. (2008). Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Assignments & Assessment

Assessment for this class will occur through two different assignments that are structured to develop critical thinking and the integration of knowledge learned in this course. These assignments are also designed to share the knowledge and experiences you have in this class with a broader audience, and to create useful learning resources that can be used by others beyond the class.

I. Course Blog Post:

30% Since this course has as a mandate to share Indigenous knowledge, wisdom, ways of knowing, and resources with as wide an audience as possible, and to move the course outside of the walls of the classroom and the university, we are creating a resource-sharing site through the Cape Breton University website.

To help populate this site, and to promote broader learning, students will be creating a blog post critically reflecting on a topic in the course and expanding the critical reflection with research and links to other resources and videos. Each student must sign up for 1 week throughout the course during weeks 2-12 (maximum three students per week), and produce a blog related to the course content. Since these blog posts will go public, they will be pre-vetted by the course instructors. Blog posts should be around 500-600 words. These posts should be written for a general audience, but should be critical and intellectual in nature, and should be engaging and interesting for people to read. This is an exciting opportunity to share your learning with others, and to contribute to the development of resources for this exciting new course.

II. Final Paper:

70% For your final assignment, we would like you to pick a course topic or major defining event in Indigenous history in Canada, and write a research paper, exploring and critically examining the topic in depth. For example: the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the White Paper Policy of 1967, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the legacies of residential schools, section 35 of the Canadian Constitution that defines Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, Indigenous resurgence and rights movements, centralization and relocation, the importance of land to Indigenous peoples (past and present), social and health inequities, restorative justice processes and Indigenous judicial issues, etc. A more detailed assignment description will be provided to you closer to the due date. This paper should be between 2500 and 3000 words, and include at least 10 references, with at least 7-8 being academic sources, such as peer-reviewed articles or books.

Course Structure, Week by Week

Week One: Introduction and the Mi’kmaq Creation Story Monday, January 11:

This class will function as an introduction to the course, the content, the structure, and each other. The class is honoured to start with course co-instructor Elder Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unama’ki College, who will share the Mi’kmaq Creation Story and introduce students to the rich First Nations heritage of Unama’ki/Cape Breton and the rest of Mi’kmaki. Speaker: Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unama’ki College & Aboriginal Learning at Cape Breton University, Elder & Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council

Required Readings & Watchings:

1. Please watch Wabanaki People of the Dawn, Part I, II, and III. Available at Suggested Watchings: 1. Ekkian Augustine Mi’kmaq Creation Story Explanation: Please watch from 3:00 to 1:17:15.

Week Two: Histories & Treaties in Mi’kma’ki Monday, January 18:

Treaties of Peace and Friendship were negotiated between the Mi’kmaq and the English representatives of the Crown in the 1700s. The treaties did not involve the surrender of Indigenous title or rights to the land; rather, the treaties stated that the Mi’kmaq can continue “to live as usual” and in co-existence with the British subjects. These historic treaties and treaty negotiations will be explained from a Mi’kmaw context, with emphasis on the implications and relevance of these treaties today in Mi’kma’ki. Speaker: Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unama’ki College & Aboriginal Learning at Cape Breton University, Elder & Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Required Readings: 1. Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative: Treaties. Available at: .

Note: Please make sure to follow the link to the Mi’kmaq Holdings Resource Guide at the bottom of the page, and read through each of the documents about the different treaties:

Suggested Reading & Watching: 1. Augustine, S. (2015). UNB’s Peace & Friendship Treaty Days – Oct 29, 2015 -3 – Stephen Augustine. Available at 2. Knockwood, C. (2003). The Mi’kmaq-Canadian treaty relations: A 227 year journey of rediscovery. In A. Walkem and Bruce, H. Box of Treasures or Empty Box? Twenty Years of Section 35. BC: Theytus Books, pp. 43-61.

Week Three: Oral History, Traditions, and Ways of Knowing Monday, January 25:

This class will expose the students to the richness of Mi’kmaq oral history and traditions, and discuss how this knowledge and ways of knowing are linked to the land in Mi’kma’ki through the development of culture and history over millennia, including through songs, stories, ceremonies, language, and more recently in written form. Speaker: Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unama’ki College & Aboriginal Learning at Cape Breton University, Elder & Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Required Readings 2. King, T. (2003). The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chapters 1-3.

Week Four: The Seven Directions and Elders’ Teachings Monday, February 1:

This class will introduce students to the holistic underpinnings of Indigenous understandings of survival and wellbeing through Elders Teachings, and will build from the Creation Story shared in Week 1. Particular focus will be placed on the ways in which this spiritual and cultural wisdom shape Indigenous survival and wellbeing and can enhance Mi’kmaw programming and supports for education, healing, wellness initiatives, and intercultural understandings. Speaker: Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unama’ki College & Aboriginal Learning at Cape Breton University, Elder & Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Required Readings: 1. King, T. (2003). The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chapters 4-6.

Week Five: It’s all About the Land Monday, February 8:

Indigenous culture, language, knowledge, and wisdom in Mi’kma’ki is often deeply tied and connected to the land. The land, and relationships with the land, are what shape many Mi’kmaq people, even today, and the deep wisdom garnered from millennia of intergenerational knowledge sharing can assist with understanding many environmental issues today. This class welcomes Clifford Paul to the course, to speak about integrating traditional and scientific knowledge for environmental resource management, with a focus on the concept of Netukulimk. Guest Speaker: Clifford Paul, Moose Manager for Unama’ki Institute for Natural Resources and Traditional Harvester

Required Readings & Watchings: 1. Please watch the following videos: • Netukulimk. Available at: • Seeking Netukulimk. Available at: 2. Simpson, L.B. (2014). Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society, 3(3), 1-25. Available at

Week Six: The Legacies of Residential Schools Monday, February 22:

Residential schools, and the enduring legacies of intergenerational trauma, are a major factor confronting Indigenous health, healing, and wellness. This class will explore the effects of intergenerational trauma on contemporary physical and mental health issues, and discuss Indigenous understandings and conceptualizations of wellness that includes mind, body, and spirit. Guest Speakers: Clark Paul, Cultural Healer and Mental Health Worker from Eskasoni First Nation, and Albert Marshall, renowned Mi’kmaq Elder and co-creator of Two-Eyed Seeing

Required Readings & Watching: 1. Canada in the Making: Aboriginal Residential Schools. This is a short historical overview of what residential schools are, and how they were structured. 2. Truth & Reconciliation Commission (2012). They Came for the Children: Canada, Aboriginal Peoples, and Residential Schools.

Available at[1]-1.pdf. Please read the Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 6, although we recommend reading this entire report.

3. Please visit the Witness Blanket website, and browse through the website’s extensive collection of stories and artifacts., including the trailer for the Witness Blanket Project documentary on the homepage. This is an inspiring and moving piece of art, that tells a powerful and painful story of the history of residential schools and their enduring legacies in Canada. Further Resources If you are interested in learning more about the Residential School system in Canada, you may wish to watch Tim Wolochatiuk’s 2012 film, We Were Children. Note: this film is difficult to watch, with graphic, disturbing, and heart-breaking content. But, it is a powerful portrayal, told through the experiences of two children who suffered through the traumas and tortures of residential schools, and discusses how the effects of these experiences have continued to impact their lives. The film is available online at

Week Seven: Understanding the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Monday, February 29:

In December 2015, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its Final Report outlining and sharing the stories, voices, and wisdom of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples across Canada who are survivors of the residential school system. This report will be a keystone in Canada’s colonial history, and is essential to understanding how we can move forward through the reconciliation and healing processes. Speaker: Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unama’ki College & Aboriginal Learning at Cape Breton University, Elder & Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Required Readings & Watching: 1. Truth & Reconciliation Report Executive Summary. .pdf. Please read the Preface and the Introduction. But, we highly recommend reading the entire report. It is an essential document for moving forward and towards reconciliation in this country.

2. Truth & Reconciliation Report Calls to Action. (2015). Please read this entire document. 3. Please browse the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Website. There are some excellent resources available here, that are essential learning resources around residential schools and the truth and reconciliation process.

Week Eight: From Challenges to Strengths & Resilience Monday, March 7:

This class will expose the students of the ways First Nations and Indigenous peoples in Canada have taken control of their own health and wellbeing and demonstrated their resilience and strength through the building of healthy and strong community structures to deal with their trauma, premised in Mi’kmaq traditions, culture, and ways of knowing. This class will explore the story of Eskasoni First Nations in Unama’ki/Cape Breton to understand the ways in which Indigenous communities can transform themselves through a commitment to integrated and holistic approaches to wellbeing. Guest Speakers: Daphne Hutt-MacLeod, Director of Mental Health Services and Sharon Rudderham, Director, Eskasoni Health Centre, Eskasoni First Nations

Required Watchings: 1. Please watch the following three videos, available at _zQl2Y07k_xg94vX6-hKyj • Eskasoni First Nation: In the Beginning • Eskasoni First Nation: Eskasoni Today • Eskasoni First Nation: Moving Forward Suggested Reading: 1. Czyzewski, K. (2011). Colonialism as a Broader Social Determinant of Health. The International Indigenous Policy Journal 2(1), 1-14.

Week Nine: Reconnecting our Youth to Their Cultural Heritage Monday, March 14:

For millennia, Indigenous peoples in Mi’kma’ki have relied on intergenerational knowledge sharing from Elders to youth to keep oral histories, tradition, and wisdom alive, and to ensure the continuation of cultural legacies and practices. As a result of residential schools, however, opportunities for intergenerational knowledge sharing were disrupted, leading to generations of youth who felt alienated and dispossessed from their own culture. Reconnecting youth with their land and their cultural traditions is, then, essential for healing and for moving forward with reconciliation. Guest Speaker: Danny Paul, Traditional Knowledge Keeper and Harvester, Membertou First Nations

Required Watching: 1. Please watch the following video: Our Rightful Place. Available at:

Week Ten: Indigenous Governance for the Future Monday, March 21:

This class will introduce students to the structure of First Nations governance and leadership in Mi’kma’ki through the experience of two experienced political leaders: Chief Leroy Denny from Eskasoni First Nations; and Elder Joe B. Marshall, negotiator and spokesman of the Mi’kmaw Nation. Both speakers will discuss the role of Mi’kmaw organizations in the system of governance and treaty relations, and challenges and opportunities for moving forward with Indigenous governance approaches in Mi’kma’ki.

Guest Speakers: Chief Leroy Denny, Eskasoni First Nations and Joe B. Marshall, President of Union of Nova Scotia Indians, Eskasoni First Nation Required Reading: 1. Alfred, T. (2009). Colonialism and state dependency. Journal of Aboriginal Health, 42-60.

Available at: m_02.pdf

Week Eleven: L’nu Higher Education Monday, April 4:

This class will discuss the experiences and challenges faced by teachers, administrators and educators on the road to building L’nu higher education in First Nations communities and in mainstream universities throughout Mi’kma’ki. Yet, integrating Indigenous knowledge, culture, wisdom, language, and histories into all levels and types of formal education is essential to moving forward, not only with reconciliation, but to support the development of strong, healthy citizens and communities. Guest Speakers: Eleanor Bernard Mi’kmaw Kina’matneway Required

Readings: 1. Battiste, M. (2010). Nourishing the learning spirit. Education Canada, 50(1). Available at

Week Twelve: Concluding Thoughts: Moving Forward with Reconciliation Monday, April 11:

This final class will be a summary of the topics and themes that were covered throughout the course with concluding remarks on how we can move forward on the road to reconciliation. We will discuss strategies and opportunities for: reducing incidents of racism, discrimination and negative attitudes toward Indigenous peoples; developing positive attitudes among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through education programs and public awareness; and taking responsibility for personal learning to increase intercultural awareness and understanding. Facilitator: Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unama’ki College & Aboriginal Learning at Cape Breton University, Elder & Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council

Required Watchings: 1. Please watch ALL of CBC’s Eight Fire documentary series: a. When you click on the link, just above the screen you will see small writing that’s in topic areas: ‘Indigenous in the City’; ‘It’s Time’; ‘Whose Land is it Anyway?’; ‘At the Crossroads’. Please watch all of these segments, including the intro video. This is an excellent series – you won’t be disappointed!