New Indigenous hires settling in at Mount Allison

The G&E and Canadian studies departments expand their course lists to include several Indigenous-centred classes

This spring, the University hired two Indigenous professors to contribute to the further development of Indigenous-focused courses and programming at Mt. A.

Dr. Jesse Popp, a member of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, is a wildlife ecologist who focuses on large mammal populations and teaches in the geography and environment department. “I weave Indigenous science and Western science approaches to overall advance ecological investigation,” she said.

This term, Popp is teaching a course called Indigenous Peoples: Ecology, Science and Technology. The class examines scientific and technological contributions from Indigenous peoples to the world. In the winter term, Popp will lead a seminar on environmental issues with Indigenous perspectives.

“The environmental seminars course with Indigenous perspectives is going to give students unique opportunities, not only to learn about historical and current environmental issues, but to engage with Indigenous communities and learn about the issues that are important to Indigenous people,” said Popp. She will also be teaching an anthropology course, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, where students will engage with elders and knowledge holders to learn about Indigenous knowledge through independent projects.

Dr. Karl Hele was also hired to teach in the Canadian studies department. Hele is a member of the Garden River First Nation. “My research deals with my community mainly as a starting point and focuses on issues of assimilation, Christianisation, [the] Indian Act, borders and performance,” said Hele.

Hele teaches Introduction to Native Studies, Aboriginal Politics and Law, Topics in Indigenous History, and Contemporary Native Issues. Hele expanded on the content of the Aboriginal Politics and Law course, saying, “Our current prime minister said he wants to follow the rule of law. This course explains that following the rule of law is not necessarily any more beneficial to First Nations than not following the rule of law … because the rule of law is pretty racist and discriminatory.”

Hele is looking forward to the process of developing an Indigenous studies program. He said, “When I came I thought it was a good opportunity. Usually in the past, as I walk into programs, they’re predefined. At Mt. A I’m going to get the opportunity to actually create the program, so it’s much more interesting because I’ve got the experience to see how things were done right or not done right. I can shape a program more so than just walking into something that’s already set up.”

Popp is also looking forward to continuing the process of a new program at the university. “Indigenous studies is very important, and I think we’re talking about the next steps in terms of decolonization at Mount Allison University,” she said.

Popp and Hele also stressed the importance of involving local communities in the direction of the program: “I plan to partner with regional Mi’kmaq communities to engage in discussions about the next important steps to consider in Indigenization at Mt. A,” said Popp. “What is important to communities to have included in academia? Is it an Indigenous studies program? Is it some sort of interdisciplinary programming? One of the first steps is consulting with communities and finding out what communities think are priorities.”

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