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MRU progress ‘slow’ to offer Indigenous language credit courses

Mount Royal University (MRU) is still bringing Indigenous language education to Calgary, but the process has had hiccups.

MRU began the development of a for-credit Aboriginal languages program. The plan meant to follow the calls to action set out by Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

MRU Librarian Jessie Loyer headed the development.

Reawakening these languages was something that was always in the back of Loyer’s mind. She hoped to bring a credit course to MRU for all students to indulge in.

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“Languages are one of the ways that culture is understood,” said Loyer.

The school completed the framework, according to John Fischer, MRU’s executive advisor on Indigenization.

“Those would be for credit, and through the faculty of arts,” said Fischer.

“The focus will be initially on Tsuu Tina, Blackfoot and Stoney.”

Each language needs a different strategy so Fischer is conversing with First Nation education outlets to help deliver those courses.

“That’s why the infrastructure and set up definitely needs to be there,” said Fischer

Courses developed for degree

MRU offered Blackfoot and Cree but that stopped in 2012 due to low interest.

“If you are a student in university, you want to take university credit courses that provide you with a degree,” said Fischer.

“Our goal at [MRU] is to be able to offer students in every faculty and program these three credits of Indigenous content.”

COVID-19 partly hindered its development.

“It’s (COVID) distracting from people’s time,” said Fischer.

Loyer, the chief architect of the languages implementation, also went on sabbatical this academic year.

Fischer said that the process will continue when Loyer returns, which he expects to be in September.

Tori McMillan, administrator for the Aboriginal Bridging Program, said with Loyer’s absence the program is in a holding pattern.

MRU’s response to the TRC’s calls to action remain unfulfilled, McMillan noted.

“However, that is not good enough of an answer,” said McMillan.

“[I] wish to convey that [Jessie] has done exceptional work to bring Indigenous knowledge to MRU, but even by university standards, the progress has been slow.”

Fischer said behind-the-scenes work is going on for these courses. The progress will resume when Loyer returns.

He hopes to see them on the calendar in the next few years.