Rethinking the humanities – New book reinforces Mi’kmaw perspectives in education

Unama’ki College (Cape Breton University) and CBU Press are hosting the official launch of a new book of Mi’kmaw scholarship titled Visioning a Mi’kmaw Humanities: Indigenizing the Academy.

Led by Dr. Marie Battiste, a native of Potlotek and professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Visioning brings new perspectives and gives new sensibilities to how Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous peoples have come to know and appreciate the deep spiritual treasure they have in them.

What is understood as the humanities celebrates the educational and humane disciplines of philosophy, history, theology, languages and literatures. Undeniably Eurocentric, the humanities are embedded in disciplinary knowledge that ignores core capacities of all societies and cultures.

As Dr. Battiste writes, the current vision of humanities education is a kind of “cognitive imperialism” that is its own authority to define what is considered normal and desirable.

“All other ways of thinking, learning and understanding the world are viewed as deficient,” she writes, “it’s the cognitive equivalent of racism.”

In Visioning a Mi’kmaw Humanities, eleven educators contribute their perspectives and research demonstrating how generations of Indigenous peoples have endured the Eurocentric education forced on them, not just in residential schools, but also in provincial public and federal schools and in postsecondary institutions.

Eurocentric approaches have cost indigenous peoples plenty: erosion and even loss of many of the indigenous languages; loss of spiritual identities and traditions linked to their ways of knowing; disconnections from Elders, lands, livelihood; and spiritual communicative connections to the land and much more.

The authors urge an agenda of restoration—a vision of society and of education where knowledge systems and languages are reinforced, not diluted, where they can respectfully gather together without resembling each other, and where peoples can participate in the cultural life of a society, education and their community with dignity.

Visioning a Mi’kmaw Humanities is already in bookstores and on-line stores, including as an e-book. The officialy launch is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16, 2-4 p.m., in the Unama’ki College department (L-151) at Cape Breton University. Everyone is welcome