By Jessa Gamble
Illustration by Jack Dylan
FROM THE APRIL 2010 ISSUE OF THE WALRUS
This spring, a pilot semester of Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning will see up to sixteen northern indigenous students earning fifteen credits through the University of Alberta’s native studies program. Located on the traditional lands of the Yellowknives Dene First Nations, five hours by snow machine from the capital, the field school will teach a broad range of courses relevant to a northern skill set. Participants will calculate the lodge’s diesel carbon footprint, set up micro–wind power, and operate composting toilets. They’ll study science as a methodology and traditional ecological knowledge as a cosmology. Law, writing, resource management, and political history will be taught by a roster of heavy hitters, including David Hik and possibly Severn Cullis-Suzuki.
Northern News Services
Published Friday, April 2, 2010
“The component of having the land is central to the experience,” says Erin Freeland Ballantyne, a member of the university’s advisory circle. “You don’t finish and go home at four o’clock. You’re living in a community and doing things like getting firewood to heat up the sauna or picking berries while you’re talking about sustainable communities and governments. It’s really hands-on.”
By Tim Querengesser
Most of all, Dechinta intentionally puts a spotlight on 50 years of government malaise. The idea of a university in the North has been talked about since John Diefenbaker was prime minister. But the talk has never stopped. Ottawa and the territorial governments still have no official plans to build a university here, which, considering the region’s future of billion-dollar natural gas pipelines and international sovereignty disputes makes even a dropout snicker. Long viewed as the nation’s storehouse of natural resources, Freeland Ballantyne says it’s beyond time to focus on the North’s human resources. “The future of the North is all about the strength of its people,” she says.
An essay by JOHN RALSTON SAUL
Published October 1, 2009
Literary Review of Canada
Three universities in the North (or one with three different campuses) matter because they are the key to building fully rounded northern communities. These are institutions northerners could attach themselves to, places young southerners would be attracted to. They would immediately become a reason for young northerners to finish high school, as they are continually admonished to do in an old-fashioned southern way—Get an education and get a job. But what sort of education? Will it relate to the North? Will it help young people to build their north or cut them off from it, and make them insecure because it only makes sense in the South? And what kind of job? Where?
These simple questions could be partially answered in a positive way if there were northern-imagined centres of excellence in the North. Which raises the strategic point in conceptualizing these universities, one that relates to IQ and northern approaches to learning.
There are already good colleges in the three northern capitals. They need to be strengthened and expanded to fully cover the essential areas of utilitarian training. But there is no need for universities that are basically fancy training centres, or for imitation southern universities in the North.