Michele A. Sam, MSW

This is my third time teaching at COTR. My first time was in 2000 when I developed and taught the College Orientation and Studies for Aboriginal Students and taught First Nations Studies 101 and 102; then in 2004-07 again I taught FNST 101 and 102. Now am developing and teaching Indigenous Studies courses. I am also teaching KTUNAXA 100 which is a course the Ktunaxa Nation Council developed and COTR delivers.

I consider myself blessed and privileged to have had the experience of an “Indigenous Learning” Program in the 1990s which was: ahead of its time; necessarily Interdisciplinary; and brought to it international Indigenous scholars in residence, many of whom I am still in contact with. Additionally every year an Elder’s Conference and Celebration were held in which local elders “taught” for a week. I had the idea I would become a secondary school teacher, but back then Indigenous Learning/Native Studies/Indigenous Studies were not considered teachable subjects. Instead I went on to do a Master in Social Work and focussed upon research which brought me ‘home’. I wanted to understand “research” better as it has such an influence upon Indigenous Peoples’ self-development past and present. I started a Phd but left before I could complete the research proposal defense and dissertation, and so I published the work accomplished and continue to learn everyday, just as my ancestors taught me–keep going. I have been actively focussed upon research by/for/with place based Indigenous Peoples knowledge systems intentionally. More recently I have been exploring the foundations of intractable conflict in CANADA for ‘Truth and Reconciliation’.

Most students I teach have never had an Instructor who is an Indigenous Person, with advanced degrees, and is teaching from a grounded Indigenous worldview and pedagogy. There is a socialized ‘idea’ students may not be aware of, about ‘all things Indigenous’ and “Indigenous Peoples’ in general. This is our starting point. About halfway through the course is when students have their ‘aha’ moment that I am not just teaching them content about an object, an ‘other’ but that I am the ‘other’/the object and they are learning about the relationship between us, rather than studying “the Indigenous”.

I have had the privilege of higher learning, according to both my own people, the Ktunaxa, and Western academe through which I had/have the pleasure of ‘meeting’ so many Indigenous scholars on similar journeys to my own and non-Indigenous scholars with questions. I am a firm believer that learning how to learn is sometimes the hardest part of learning–we are unaware of the many assumptions and expectations we carry with us. And so for me teaching, is facilitating growth and exploration of self…and intention is not defined by technology but through dialogue.