- Susan Birkwood – Department of English
Susan Birkwood – Department of English
Since 2013, I have been arranging class visits by writers and visual artists to forge connections between the classroom, campus life, and the arts communities in Ottawa (See the list of speakers provided). It has been my experience that both the students and the speakers have benefitted from the opportunity to engage with each other. I have provided excerpts from a very small sample of student reflections on the class visits; each speaks to the impact of hearing directly from an author or visual artist about their work, their artistic process, and personal or cultural background. It was gratifying to read the following regarding one of our Co‐op students: “After developing an interest in Aboriginal issues through her second‐year Canadian literature course, Alicia completed her first co‐op work term as a junior policy analyst at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.” Alicia was in my section of ENGL 2802: Canadian Literatures (https://carleton.ca/english/undergraduate‐program/life‐english‐undergraduate/the‐coop‐experience‐blog/). I am also including e‐mails from Waubgeshig Rice and Frances Itani regarding their thoughts on their engagement with students.
Inviting Waubgeshig Rice to speak to my class about his short story collection Midnight Sweatlodge is just one of the ways in which I have incorporated Indigenous programming and texts in my courses. I have been assigning texts by Indigenous authors for the twenty years that I have been teaching. In 2012, I took an introductory Anishinaabemowin course in order to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the language, and I explain some of the significant differences between Anishinaabemowin and English to my students, to stress the different ways of being in the world (One example I stress is the distinction between animate and inanimate that is present rather than any hierarchizing of gender as there is in European languages).
Last year, I took all four of my classes to Walking With Our Sisters (See “Visits to CUAG”). Not long after that, thanks to a former student who works with Cindy Blackstock at First NationsChild and Family Caring Society of Canada, I received an invitation to attend the November 1stunveiling of a new plaque at the site of Duncan Campbell Scott’s grave, in Beechwood Cemetery. I had the honour of meeting Cindy Blackstock and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Commissioner,Marie Wilson, at the event. I was able to incorporate this experience into my teaching of Scott’s poetry (Scott was one of the Confederation Poets. He was also Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1913‐1932. He is a very controversial figure).