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Dr. Jennie Massey

November 28, 2017

Awareness of Aboriginal Peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador: Memorial’s First-year Students (2013) Speak, a paper co-authored by Dr. Jennifer Massey, director, Student Life, at Memorial and Anne Godlewska, Laura Schaefli, Sheila Freake and John Rose was published in The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien on Nov. 24. As part of the Assessing Student Awareness of Indigenous Peoples survey of Newfoundland and Labrador and before exposing them to any Indigenous content, the authors asked first-year students at Memorial University the three most important things they knew about Aboriginal Peoples. At the end of the survey, they were asked another open-ended question: Did they consider the test a valid measure of their knowledge, and why or why not. The responses to these two questions revealed a great deal about what students know and think. Overwhelmingly their thinking is marred by racism, stereotypes and an inability to access language to express the specificity and diversity of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. In some cases, these views and attitudes are reinforced rather than dispelled in primary, middle and secondary education. Despite a poor performance on the test, more than 78 per cent of students considered the test a valid measure of their knowledge. Both the answers in the positive and negative are revealing of student attitudes about Aboriginal Peoples and topics.