Decolonization is no small undertaking. It requires us to relearn, to challenge assumptions we’ve been taught, and to create a new understanding of the land we live on.
This is true for both Settlers, who often have a false sense of ownership, and Aboriginal peoples, whose connection with their own heritage may have been damaged by racism, the residential school system, and involuntary loss of traditional ways of living.
So it’s kind of huge, and where do you even start? The St. John’s Native Friendship Center. That’s where.
They offer a course, Aboriginal Cultural Diversity Training, to help you understand some basic concepts, historical context, even a few dos and donts of what the course calls “Cultural Competency,” and what I call “not being a jerk.”
If you think this is stuff you know already, don’t be so sure. I didn’t know some of it. More educated people than me didn’t know some of it either. Which is a lesson in itself.
Aboriginal Cultural Diversity Training is available in formats ranging from a one hour overview (often done as a lunch session and great for organizations with limited budgets) to three hour and full day sessions which are more content heavy, and a three day session which follows its comprehensive lesson plan with opportunities for experiential learning.
They’re all taught by SJNFC’s Heidi Dixon, and it’s a comfortable environment where any honest question is welcomed and given an honest answer.
An introduction to NL’s aboriginal peoples, Innu, Mi’kmaq, Inuit, and Nunatukavut, starts the course. The homelands, language and other information provided are necessary background to understand anything about the province’s history. Symbols, spirituality, and community organization are next. The history module covers colonization, the Indian Act, residential schools, and Confederation. These modules are covered to some extent in all versions of the course.
Current affairs, the final module, tackles intergenerational trauma, media representation, and modern racism in all but the one hour overview. The one or three day sessions are definitely worth considering for organizations and individuals needing greater knowledge of issues specific to urban and remote locations, timely topics like Truth and Reconciliation and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, as well as handling sensitive issues and celebrating culture.
Dixon herself does not use the term Cultural Competancy, as she feels it implies an endpoint to what is really a life-long commitment to learning and understanding our history, society and each other better. Cultural humility is a term she uses, and she’d like to help people on their journey to become more culturally humble in their workplaces and their own lives.