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Great dreams from long ago: OISE appoints special advisor to the dean on aboriginal education


September 2, 2011

by Jennifer Sipos-Smith

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE) announced the appointment of Dr. Suzanne L. Stewart of the Yellowknife Dene First Nation as OISE’s first Special Advisor to the Dean on Aboriginal Education today. OISE is a leader in aboriginal education and among the first Canadian faculties of education to prioritize indigenous values and educational research following the signing of the Accord on Indigenous Education by the Association of Canadian Deans of Education (ACDE) in June 2010. The accord was developed to create a respectful and inclusive education curriculum that reflects the needs of Aboriginal people. 

“OISE did not leave the Accord to gather dust on a shelf,” says OISE Dean Julia O’Sullivan.  “Our signature represented our commitment to action.  The Special Advisor position sits at the highest level in Canada’s leading Faculty of Education reflecting the importance of Aboriginal education here and across the whole country.”

“This is great for First Nations People in Canada to be acknowledged and to be given this opportunity to contribute through OISE and the University of Toronto,” said Larry Frost, the executive director of The Native Canadian Centre.  The Centre is one of 117 friendship centres across Canada whose mandate is to provide cultural teaching and a meeting place following Aboriginal peoples' migrations to cities.

Suzanne L. Stewart is an assistant professor in the department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology.  Suzanne began her appointment at OISE in 2007, following completion of her PhD in Counselling Psychology from the University of Victoria. Her research and teaching expertise include Indigenous mental health and healing, and Indigenous pedagogies in education. Among other courses, she teaches Special Topics in Counselling Psychology: Integrating Traditional Healing Practices into Counselling and PsychotherapySuzanne coordinates the Indigenous Education Network based at OISE, and works within local Native communities and shares her experiences with regional, national, and international health and government organizations. 

In her new role, Suzanne will bring together a community-based Aboriginal Council to advise on institutional policies, procedures, practices and programs to ensure they reflect and respect the interests and needs of Aboriginal communities.  This position was established in consultation with the Aboriginal scholars at OISE and with Anishnawbe Health Toronto, and was given the spiritual name Kitchae kaetae bojinanon (Great dreams from long ago) at a special naming ceremony last month. Suzanne was also given a new spiritual name, Medicine Hand, to help guide the success of the initiative.

“This is a very special moment for OISE, the University of Toronto and for education in Canada,” added OISE Dean Julia O’Sullivan. 

Since 1989, aboriginal students at OISE have helped to promote a vision for a stronger indigenous presence in post-secondary education.  At OISE, many graduate courses create spaces for integrating Aboriginal and Indigenous knowledges, and OISE’s teacher education program has developed Aboriginal content in all core areas of learning so that OISE teacher candidates can be better prepared to teach Aboriginal learners and to include Aboriginal world views in their future classrooms.