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McGill University Now Offers a Bachelor's Degree in an Indigenous Community

For the first time, a bachelor of education in First Nations and Inuit Education program will be offered by the Kahnawake Education Center and McGill University on Mohawk territory in the community of Kahnawake.

McGill University has set a goal to double Indigenous enrolment by 2025, according to the Montreal Gazette.

“The provost office has made Indigenous success a key priority,” Christopher Manfredi, McGill’s provost and vice-principal academic, told CBC. “Universities have a crucial role in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action.”

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Among the calls to action from the TRC is the request for universities to create programs to be offered in Indigenous languages. The TRC has also asked for various improvements to education in Indigenous communities.

After graduating from the 120-credit program, teachers will be qualified to teach kindergarten and elementary students in Quebec.

The education program will be customized based on Kahnawake's needs, according to Robin Delaronde, director of the Kahnawake Education Center.

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Classes will include culturally relevant information and courses will be offered in the evening to accommodate all kinds of schedules.

“It's so important that they have all of the course requirements needed for teaching but equally it's important that they have a clear understanding of how to teach through our own world view and perspective as Indigenous people,” Delaronde told CBC.

When Delaronde graduated with her bachelor of education from McGill in 1988, she said she was underprepared for teaching in her community.

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Legislation actually prevented Mohawk students from attending school in English when Delaronde was in high school in 1977, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Mohawk students were not allowed to attend Howard S. Billings High School in Châteauguay — so they returned back to their territory and started their own school called Kahnawake Survival School.

“You had classes being taught in people’s homes, in the youth centre, all over town,” Delaronde told the Montreal Gazette. “That was the first time in my life that I started to learn about my culture, my language, and what it meant to be a Mohawk.”

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Now, Mohawk students will have the option to attend school accredited by a reputable university on their own land, as part of a program created in collaboration with Mohawk educators.

“This is a historic moment. The university is planting seeds and those seeds are us,” Shakonware:tsi Silversmith, one of the program’s first students, told the Montreal Gazette. “But then my kids and all our kids are going to be the ones to benefit from it. And the university’s benefiting because we’ll share our knowledge with them as well.”