CSSE recently sat down for a conversation with Lindsay Morcom, a Rhodes Scholar and currently Assistant Professor of Aboriginal Education in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. Much of Lindsay’s time is devoted to the Faculty’s Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP), which is demanding and rewarding in equal measures. ATEP focuses on bringing truth and reconciliation into the classroom, which is not always an easy task. “ATEP’s focus on reconciliation means that we have a lot of deep conversations about things that have happened historically and currently in Canada,” explains Lindsay. She goes on to note that these conversations can be difficult but are essential for all educators, so that they can live up to their professional roles in the classroom and in society. Fortunately, most teacher-candidates, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are open to having these conversations.
When ATEP teacher-candidates go into the classroom, they meet an additional set of challenges. Lindsay notes that some teachers are unsure about how to teach about Indigenous histories, that they are afraid of getting it wrong and perhaps doing more harm. She has found that bringing ATEP teacher-candidates into schools helps overcome these fears and paves the way for open discussions about promising approaches to teaching truth and reconciliation in the classroom. “Our goal is to build confidence in teachers and learning communities,” says Morcom, “so that they can approach truth and reconciliation in a respectful and appropriate way.”
Building on this notion of helping teachers feel comfortable in the role of teaching about Indigenous histories, Lindsay and colleagues Dr. Kate Freeman and Shawn MacDonald recently co-authored an article for Education Canada. Aimed at classroom teachers, “Truth and Reconciliation in YOUR Classroom: How to get started, and who can help,” outlines practical approaches to developing pedagogy for reconciliation and resources that teachers can draw upon for support. The full article may be found here: https://www.edcan.ca/articles/truth-reconciliation-classroom/
For the last several years, all teacher-candidates at Queen’s have taken a mandatory course in Indigenous education. Lindsay feels that has been a highly positive development for the program, ensuring that every beginning teacher now has a grounding in Indigenous histories, perspectives, and world views, along with access to Indigenous curriculum resources. “The majority of our students really want this kind of learning,” explains Lindsay. “They understand that it’s essential knowledge for today’s teachers, and they recognize that this background will help them in every school that they teach in throughout their careers. The Faculty of Education at Queen’s has a strong commitment to social justice, and many of our teacher-candidates choose our program because of this commitment: they want to be excellent teachers, but they also want to teach for social betterment. The required Indigenous course is an essential part of the package.”
Lindsay’s original academic focus was linguistics, with a specialization in Indigenous languages. She explains that while this is a hopeful time in terms of language preservation and revitalization, it is also a moment of crisis. “We have a mountain to climb and there’s no time to be lost,” explains Morcom. “There’s a lot we can do but we need resources to make it happen.” Morcom works with a Manitoulin Island school that piloted an Ojibwe language immersion program. In this school, children who enrol in the JK program are essentially fluent speakers by Grade 4. Morcom explains the significance of this achievement: “Language is essential. The more I learned Anishinaabemowin, the more I understood my Algonquin ancestry. Language contains important information about culture, about ways of viewing and being in the world.” Morcom goes on to explain her engagement with the Kingston Native Language Nest, a community based initiative that creates a safe space for sharing Indigenous language, songs and stories. “The program is aimed at children, but we found that all people involved, including adults, developed a sense of identity and community by being part of a language culture. The language opens us up to authentic ways of being Indigenous,” she explains.
Going forward, Lindsay plans to continue her research on language revitalization, focusing on Anishinaabemowin, which she has come to love. With 70% of Indigenous people living off reserve, programs like Kingston’s Language Nest are more important than ever in terms of urban language and cultural revitalization. Lindsay is working with researchers from other universities, to understand what allyship looks like in other university contexts. She hopes to expand this work to look at international Indigeneity, as well.
What’s next in Lindsay’s academic career? CSSE has been bound to secrecy, but we can advise you to look out for a big announcement in the coming months.
If you would like to read more about Lindsay’s research, please check her recent publications in the Canadian Journal of Education:
What do first-year university students in Ontario, Canada, know about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and topics?
Niinwi – Kiinwa – Kiinwi: Building Non-Indigenous Allies in Education through Indigenous Pedagogy