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‘Mobilizing knowledge’

Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies Certificate reflects national shift

special feature: Aboriginal Peoples

Part of a special feature focused on celebrating and recognizing the contribution and impact of Aboriginal Peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador and highlighting contemporary topics and opportunities related to Aboriginal Peoples worldwide. This feature coincides with Aboriginal Peoples Week running March 21-24.


By Mandy Cook

There are many reasons why Memorial’s new Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies Certificate is an important development in the university’s curriculum, says the program’s co-ordinator―one of the top being the university’s special obligation to all of Newfoundland and Labrador’s citizens.

“It is important that all communities in this province see some aspect of their history and present reality reflected in the courses and programs we offer,” said Dr. Scott Neilsen, assistant professor, Department of Archaeology and the Labrador Institute.

Dr. Scott Neilsen, Department of Archaeology and the Labrador Institute, is the co-ordinator of the Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies certificate.
Dr. Scott Neilsen is the co-ordinator of the Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies certificate.
Photo: David Howells

Available immediately

With guidance from members of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Neilsen has been working on transforming the current Aboriginal Studies minor program into a university certificate. Students can begin completing courses in the program immediately. A new anchor course called Critical Reading and Writing in Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies will be available this fall.

“I also believe that the various segments of Canadian society expect, and have a right, to see themselves reflected in university programing and life.” — Dr. Scott Neilsen

Considering the growing interest in reconciliation across the country―particularly on the heels of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final report this past December―Dr. Neilsen says it is more important than ever for academic institutions to play a role in the process.

“I think the development of this program is a reflection of wider trends that we see in the social sciences and humanities all across the country,” he said. “There appears to be a growing desire for courses that focus on social justice issues, and Aboriginal-Indigenous studies certainly fit within this category. I also believe that the various segments of Canadian society expect, and have a right, to see themselves reflected in university programing and life.”

Broader access

Dr. Lynne Phillips, dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, agrees. She says the certificate, which is available to most individuals who register at Memorial, broadens access to an “extremely important” subject area.

“Universities play an important role in endorsing and mobilizing knowledge about Aboriginal contributions and challenges in Canada,” said Dr. Phillips. “This certificate is a step in this direction.”

The certificate brings existing Aboriginal- and Indigenous-focused courses under one banner, and makes it easier for students interested in those subjects to focus on the topic during their studies at Memorial, no matter what their program of study. It will also allow for interested members of the general public and professionals to identify courses focused in the subject matter and to enrol in a focused program of study that does not require them to complete a full, or additional, university degree.

The entry requirements are the same as for a bachelor of arts degree; students will be required to complete 21 credit hours in the approved certificate courses. Depending on a student’s interest, it could be possible to complete the certificate in two years. Courses will cover subject areas such as archaeology, anthropology, history, English and political science.

Variety of options

In addition, since there is a growing interest in programs that students can easily add on to their current degree programs, or programs they have already completed, options such as the Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies Certificate are a natural evolution in curriculum offerings, says Dr. Neilsen.

“Academic institutions need to become more flexible, and allow for students to explore a greater variety of subjects and interests. A program such as the Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies Certificate is one way to facilitate this.”


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