Classroom Climate series engages UBC with Aboriginal topics

By Wendy Chan posted on December 4th, 2015

As part of the Classroom Climate series, which is held throughout the academic year, CTLT Aboriginal Initiatives hosted a series of workshops in fall 2015. The workshops invited members of the UBC community to critically engage in topics related to Aboriginal issues.

In “Engaging with the Museum of Anthropology,” Susan Rowley and Jordan Wilson discussed ćǝsnaɁǝm, the city before the city, a series of three exhibitions that explore the ancient village and burial site located in the area now commonly known as the Vancouver neighbourhood of Marpole. Rowley and Wilson, who co-curated the exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), also shared how they created accompanying resources for students and instructors.

Wilson, a Musqueam community member and graduate student in the UBC Department of Anthropology, explained that c̓əsnaʔəm* came to public attention in 2012 after Musqueam members held a vigil in response to plans to develop over the site, in order to raise awareness of the erasure of Aboriginal history.

The supportive response from Vancouverites made Musqueam members more comfortable in sharing their stories. To ensure these stories were told in a respectful and meaningful way, the exhibit was developed with an advisory committee of Musqueam leaders.

“We started with open community sessions to get a sense of what the community thought was important in light of the vigil that took place,” Wilson said. “Musqueam community members saw this project as an opportunity to tell their own story, in their own way. Although c̓əsnaʔəm would be the focal point, this would also be a jumping off point to discuss who we are as a people.”

Rowley, who is co-head of the UBC Department of Anthropology, encouraged anyone who visits the exhibit to be an active and respectful participant. “Musqueam is accompanying [you] throughout the exhibit, and it requests that respect be shown for the knowledge being shared,” she said. She hopes visitors will then share the knowledge they learn with others.

In addition to the physical exhibit space, Rowley and Wilson have also created online resources supported by funding through flexible learning. Their project, named Engage UBC, aims to enhance student learning through creating online resources using the Reciprocal Research Network (RRN), an online tool that facilitates collaborative research about cultural heritage.

An online toolkit for instructors has been developed, along with online resources for students to use in conjunction with visiting the exhibit. Through RRN Publisher, students have also been able to create their own digital publications. The goal is for student-created content to be shared with a wider audience.

ćǝsnaɁǝm, the city before the city is a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver over the next four years. The exhibits at the Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Centre and the Museum of Anthropology will be on display until January 24, 2016.

*How to pronounce c̓əsnaʔəm:

ć = “ts” and a little force adding a slight pop
ə = u in “but”
ʔ = a consonant with no sound like the space in “uh-oh”

CTLT Classroom Climate workshops provide participants with an opportunity to learn about Aboriginal history and culture and how these topics can be explored within and beyond the classroom. The next Classroom Climate event, “Taking Classroom Climate Online,” will take place December 9, 2015 during the CTLT Winter Institute. The session will include a faculty roundtable and discussion on how to address issues of identity in online and blended learning environments, considerations of place and location when using digital technologies, and articulating cyberspace in the context of Indigenous studies. Registration is currently open.