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Loyalist introduces cultural awareness course

By Sarah Schofield


BELLEVILLE, Ont. (05/03/12)-Suzanne Brant, one of the coordinators of the Cultural Awareness course beginning March 6 held at Loyalist College, is excited to begin the weekly class held in room 3H10. She hopes the recipients will have a greater understand and appreciation for the aboriginal cultures of Canada. Photo by Sarah Schofield.

A cultural awareness course is on its way at Loyalist College starting Tuesday evening, March 6.

Each three-hour weekly cultural awareness class aims to bring a wider understanding of the aboriginal cultures to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people from the Quinte area.

The class starts at 6 p.m. and is free.

One of the coordinators, Suzanne Brant, explains what to expect.

“We cover things like creation teachings, teachings on the peacemaker, treaties, historical events and how we ended up on reserves. We cover many topics during those eight weeks,“ said Brant, whose Mohawk name is Katsitsiarishion.

Over the past 15 years of holding the course, Brant has seen a growing interest in both the number and range of people wanting to take the course. Five years ago  they started seeing an increase in attendees.

“We’ve had anywhere from 25 to 40 people sign up for the classes. Usually there are three or four students from the college that come in the program. Ninety-five percent of the attendees are non-aboriginal people. It’s always been that way. “

Paul Latchford, coordinator of aboriginal services at Loyalist College, is credited with playing a big role in starting the course.

“We knew that as we started doing services for aboriginal peoples, management and faculty needed to have an understanding of who we were as aboriginal peoples. That’s really where the course came from,” Latchford said.

“He knew that it was important that we had some cultural awareness for the college system itself,” said Brant. “It started off with a lot of staff from Loyalist College and they would come to Tyendinaga into the community and that’s where the cultural awareness classes were held before. It was really his vision and understanding of the need for educating the college community.”

The importance of having a course like this offered to the public is obvious to Brant.

“I think it’s important to understand the relationship of how we ended up on reserves and why we are the way we are. Also what needs to change to have better lives in our communities.“

“It’s not just one culture. There are many aboriginal nations and indigenous nations across Canada and everyone has a different way of living whether it is there practicing ceremonies or their diets.”

She suggests that people need look no further than this community to get a taste of culture.

“People become fascinated with the pyramids and the Mayan civilizations but what they don’t realize is that that same knowledge and indigenous understanding is right here in their backyards. These people are willing to share and if they’re willing to learn they could walk away with a greater knowledge of what is here in Canada. “

Classes run every Tuesday starting March 6 at 6 p.m at Loyalist College in room 3H10. For more information contact the Aboriginal Resource Centre at 613-969-1913 ext. 2250.