Aboriginal couple kicks off conference on education and communities

Aboriginal educators and activists Mary Lou and Dan Smoke will deliver the keynote address at a conference about education and communities being held at York University today and tomorrow.

The couple, hosts of the newsmagazine program “Smoke Signals” on CHRW 94.9 FM Radio in London, Ont., will perform an indigenous ceremony to open the ninth annual Graduate Conference in Education. Dan Smoke, a member of the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy and president of the Board of Directors for the Native News Network of Canada, works with traditional knowledge carriers from many nations including Cree, Lakota, Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk and Onondaga Nations of the Haudenosaunee. Mary Lou Smoke, a member of the Ojibwa Nation, is a gifted writer, singer, guitarist and traditional drummer.

The Smokes’ commitment to enhancing cross-cultural understanding by combining education and artistic expression is in keeping with York University’s efforts to bring knowledge about aboriginal and other communities into teacher education programs in the Faculty of Education, and to incorporate the arts as well.

In September, York’s Faculty of Education launched the First Nation, Métis & Inuit Infusion Teacher Education Program at its Barrie, Ont. campus. York’s Graduate Program in Language, Culture & Teaching, directed by Professor Sandra R. Schecter, brings together faculty and scholars from all disciplines, as well as practitioners from fields including filmmaking and visual and performance art. The graduate program also offers courses such as Indigenous Ways of Knowing.

A wide variety of research will be presented at the conference ranging from history (the end of corporal punishment in Toronto schools) to the present (using multilingual digital projects in classrooms), and from the education challenges faced by particular communities (people with disabilities, for example) to the possibilities (supporting music and dance in the curriculum).

A number of films will also be shown during the conference, including Pelqìlc (Coming Home) based on York University Professor Celia Haig-Brown’s research about the students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Spy Dénommé-Welch, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, and performer Catherine Magowan, will discuss their opera Giiwedin, which successfully premiered at Theatre Passe Muraille in April.

The Ninth Annual Graduate Conference in Education at York University takes place today and tomorrow in the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Building on York’s Keele campus.