Thompson Rivers University

Indigenous writing course digs deep into cultural richness

  Posted on: February 22, 2019

Garry Gottfriedson is teaching a new and unique course on Indigenous writing this spring.

A new and unique course for the Master of Education program exposes students to some of Canada’s best Indigenous authors and then challenges them to draw on their insights to create their own written works.

The specialized course, Learning Through Indigenous Literature, is being taught by Garry Gottfriedson, a member of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc and cultural adviser and lecturer with the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

Unlike traditional courses where students write a paper, this course requires them to learn about and read award-winning Indigenous authors from across Canada and express what they’ve learned through a creative writing approach. It’s open to all students, Indigenous or not.

“They’ll have to write a short story, poetry or even a children’s story,” he said.

Among the award-winning authors he includes in the course are Richard Van Camp, Katerena Vermette and Willie Sellers. All three have been associated with the En’owkin International School of Writing in Penticton, where Gottfriedson studied and discovered numerous Indigenous writers decades ago.

“The Indigenous voice is a very strong voice in this country. What makes our voice unique is we have to use it in a creative way to actually teach the Canadian society a lot about history, the colonial history. So our voice is quite strong and unique in that aspect,” he said.

“It (the course) provides insights into what it’s like for us as First Nations people living on reserves or in a First Nations environment—even First Nations urban environments. Our people tend to stay close together. It’s a reflection of who we are and our place in society, our history current colonial and engagement with Canada, and history prior to that.”

Gottfriedson wants students to develop a deep sense of co-existence through their reading—a sense that they then express in their work.

“Other universities teach from a Western pedagogical approach. I want people to tap into a deeper consciousness and use their creativity to be able to express their perceptions,” he said.

“It’s a different take on looking at literature and our place in reconciliation and our contribution to reconciliation. Being aware of the past, but looking forward. It’s going to challenge the students and offer them other insights.”

The course is intensive, starting in May and taking place over four weekends. Students can expect to discover new voices and gain new perspectives into their country, and perhaps into themselves.

“When you look at Canadian society and First Nations literature, they think of us as these stoic, romantic but yet savage and barbaric people. That stereotyping is still prevalent today in a lot of Canadian literature. So what the First Nations voice does is it dispells all of that. It gives people some real insights as to who we are and the richness in our culture and societies,” said Gottfriedson.

Learn more about TRU’s Master of Education program.