The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Native studies should be a requirement for ESB

By in Opinions


Aboriginal recruitment, retention and awareness are goals across our entire campus and within every faculty. However, I believe native studies classes need to be made a requirement within my faculty: Edwards School of Business.

I am a new student to ESB, having recently transferred from the University of Regina. From the moment I arrived at our university I have been encouraged by the Aboriginal initiatives our university is pursuing — so let’s keep the momentum going.

In Edwards, students learn about the demographic shift that will take place before 2050, when the Aboriginal population is projected to become the majority in our province.

We are taught that Aboriginal Peoples will become major economic players provincially and nationally.

The importance of this shift will have on our business community is stressed to our first year and transfer commerce students. Our faculty also stresses the need for the inclusion of Aboriginal Peoples in the business community.

Edwards graduates are being trained to become business leaders and with each year that passes our province is expected to see our Aboriginal population grow in absolute and relative size.

With less than four per cent of Edwards students self-declaring as Aboriginal, I’ve realized the need for the faculty to shift its approach to Aboriginal awareness.

Currently, first year and transfer students are  required to take COMM 119 — which touches on Aboriginal issues — coupled with the occasional Aboriginal guest speaker that holds a statistically insignificant amount of weight or importance in a commerce degree.

There is a great disparity that exists between two issues that should be in perfect alignment: the expressed importance of Aboriginal awareness by Edwards’ educators and the academic importance placed on Aboriginal education.

While faculty, staff and administrator’s words express a great deal of importance towards Aboriginal topics, these issues have virtually zero weight in a commerce degree. Thus, it’s easy to understand why Aboriginal commerce students perceive these words as mere lip service.

The ineffective model used to increase our student body’s knowledge of issues faced by Aboriginals is failing to achieve any real awareness.

Working as our Aboriginal Students’ Centre’s Leadership and Career-Building Ambassador, being an executive member of the Aboriginal Business Students’ Society and my experience being part of an Aboriginal Student Leadership Group has provided me a vast number of unique opportunities to meeting hundreds of students across our campus. In doing so, I’ve gathered input from a diverse pool of students who are studying everything from agriculture to engineering and to discuss policy initiatives with some of our university’s decision-makers.

From these conversations as well as my experiences — recent and not-so-recent — one idea stands out from the rest: native studies needs to be a requirement for all commerce degrees within the Edwards School of Business.

Our university’s College of Education students are required to take six credit hours of native studies classes, which is understandable since these students will soon be responsible for educating Aboriginal children.

Similarly, our future business leaders are going to be managing an increasing number of Aboriginal workers. Yet our commerce students receive less than five hours of dedicated and relevant education regarding Canada’s history with Aboriginal Peoples and how it affects Aboriginals today. That is less than 0.5 per cent of the total class hours within the overall frame of commerce degrees.

The relevance and effectiveness of Edwards’ current model to build Aboriginal knowledge and awareness in our faculty is questionable at best.

With Aboriginal students in Edwards becoming increasingly aware of this educational deficit, other disparities within our faculty become increasingly apparent.

Aboriginal business students who believe our faculty actually values “respect for racial and cultural differences,” as noted on the ESB website, are now questioning our faculty’s once beautiful, inspiring and eloquent mission statement: “The Edwards School of Business develops business professionals to build nations.”

If Edwards develops business professionals to build nations without bridging the knowledge deficit our commerce students all possess, how can we reasonably expect our business leaders in-training to be able to help rebuild our country’s First Nations relations?

Where do our First Nations People fit into the college’s mission? How can we reasonably expect our future business leaders to truly understand our Aboriginal communities?

We hear our instructors constantly stressing the importance of Aboriginal enrollment in commerce, participation and representation in the workforce and we learn of statistics related to these issues. Aboriginal business students, as well as the Aboriginal Business Students’ Society, recognize the need for our faculty to mandate six credit hours of Native Studies for all commerce degrees.

Edwards School of Business needs to be doing more to educate graduates and our future business leaders on Aboriginal culture and history.

The current strategy to raise awareness of Aboriginal issues with our commerce students is ineffective and this outdated model needs to be replaced with quantitative education

There is an understanding from faculty that our Aboriginal population will play an important role in our economy and business community. However, this task may be impossible without our future business leaders having a minimum six credit hours — or more — of native studies education at our post-secondary level.

Without our future leaders expanding their understanding of Aboriginal history, how can we reasonably expect our future business community to understand Aboriginals as a people?

I emplore Edwards School of Business to mandate a minimum standard of native studies classes to ensure our graduates are properly prepared for the challenges they will face in their careers.

  • Jon

    This article reads as though the author would be better served by taking an english class. In all seriousness though, and speaking as an Edwards student, I would be against mandating native studies classes to be part of a commerce degree. If we make native studies classes mandatory, why stop there? Is it not true that we will be working with individuals from many other cultural backgrounds, so in order to understand them, we should take classes to study their history? I recognize the number of Aboriginal people in this province are growing, but so are the numbers of many other cultural groups. I question the genuine benefit a native studies class would have in actual relations with Aboriginal people in the business world. There are opportunities for commerce students to learn more about Aboriginal peoples if they so choose, and I would be strongly against mandating any more classes that are not directly relevant to a commerce degree.

  • Erica

    Great article. It’s absolutely necessary for ESB students (and all students) to learn respect for First Nations people (and women, and the disabled, and those from different backgrounds, period). So often, we still encounter stereotypes and ignorance in our classes – places that should be safe spaces for learning. Thanks for speaking up, JD; best of luck in your studies.

    • lol

      You do not possess any modicum of self – awareness. How do you not understand how pushy and arrogant you sound? Your agenda is not mine, nor will it ever be. Maybe you should start taking some Russian language classes so we can overcome the stereotype that all Ruskis are drunken degenerates. Oh wait, never mind, its totally up to you whether or not you want to do that.

    • wow

      First Nation’s people are the most privileged and tax subsidized race in this country already. Why do we need to spend more money learning about their primitive culture?

  • D

    Should all ESB students get a flu shot as well?

  • Adam

    Canada was founded within the context of immigrants and First Nations inhabitants. Having a standard Native Studies requirement, even of 3 cu, would be extremely beneficial. There are not always opportunities to study immigrant cultures specifically, but a genuine engagement in Native Studies will not only create more contextual, and historical understanding of current issues but perhaps a desire to expand cultural understanding in general. If more of us push to empathise with First Nations, Metis and Inuit history, mutual understanding will grow and develop. It’s as important for us to understand their history and culture, as it is for them to understand those of the many immigrant cultures in Canada.

  • Zach

    The 3rd last block of prose sums up the flawed assumptions of our sheaf contributor. 6 c.u. of any study will not have a lasting affect on the Saskatchewan economy. I’m sorry, but that sounds ridiculous. The market will inevitably find the path of least resistance and initiatives like this will prove pointless. More than a market must come to understand the people, the people must come to understand the market. The market does not discriminate (If you feel it does than you do not recognize that causation and correlation are two different things). Oil, potash, agricultural etc are all markets that operate outside of the recognition that Canada was settled by men who seized power by force and coercion. The sooner Bell and supporters alike can come to grips with what I have shared, the better. The bottom line is; go to school, get an education and recognize that you are first and foremost a citizen of Canada.

  • Jasmine

    If this were realistic, ESB would also need to require 6 cu of women’s and gender studies classes for graduates. Women’s rights are important too, as are all basic human rights that should be of basic human understanding anyways.

  • Joseph

    Interesting article. I would argue that most students especially in Edwards would agree on the importance of diversity and the role that indigenous people will play in the Saskatchewan economy in the upcoming years. The shift in population growth is a fact backed by numbers that cannot be disputed. Business students learning more skills that can help them empathize, relate to, and ultimately better integrate aboriginal peoples into the business world is a very positive and necessary thing. This however is the only practical and worthwhile sentiment of this article. 6 cu of native studies courses would not accomplish any of the desired affect. As stated below the minuscule hours devoted to study is not enough to make a substantial impact. What may help business students would be entire courses offered through ESB that specialize in Aboriginal peoples management or Native studies as it relates to the business world, emphasizing the history of their communities and how that affects the business world today. Such a course or courses similar could offer strategies and tactics to better serve Aboriginal peoples and all persons doing business in Saskatchewan while keeping the focus of the course on BUSINESS. These courses would do a far better job at outlining the importance of understanding indigenous people to business students, as the topics studied would relate directly to not only their chosen field of study but also to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.ESB students do not want to be forced to take on more electives that do not quantifiably give them an advantage. 100 level native studies courses do not give any advantages to students once they graduate, and to mandate 6 cu of study would just mean ESB students for the most part choosing the most basic NS classes, finishing them and moving on.

  • Scott

    I don’t think its fair that people with not a lot of money or even if you are financially secure, have to pay for classes they don’t need are are not interested in. It starts to feel like its being forced upon people.

  • Patricia Gardypie

    Thanks JD for this article, as an Executive Member of the Aboriginal Business Student Society I agree that it would be beneficial for a mandatory Native Studies class for all ESB students. After reading some of these reply’s it is even more so evident that our college lacks understanding in the importance of reteaching real Canadian history to Canadians. There are many misconceptions out there about Aboriginal People and the history of this country. I laugh at the fact that one resounded with “this country was founded on immigrants”, this land was already founded and had a complex system of existence from economics, sciences, right down to social culture. (I actually imagine this person having visions of “wild Indians running around with no sense of civilization.) This is the biggest misconception, that Abroginals were savage and needed to be saved… Having been in the college for four years now there are countless stories of misconceptions that have filtered out of the mouths of the young students that fill the halls of ESB. On a bright note though there is a reemergence of young people that have challenged their previous teachings in our Canadian Public School systems and have actually engaged in learning more!

    • MC

      They were not wrong on sayig this country was founded by immigrants. Country and land have different meanings. The legal entity known as Canada was founded by immigrants. There also happened to be a well founded society on the land prior.
      Both are right.

  • lulu

    While im not saying learning about culture is bad but……..well then lets make the study of every other culture mandatory, you cant just single one out and say that its more important then the others and assume it what people want to learn about or that it will be anyways helpful in their futures. stop meddling with degrees, there are already pointless classes that are mandatory for certain degrees we don’t need more.

  • Bob


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