The Department of Indigenous Learning is committed to providing both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students with fundamental understanding of Aboriginal history, culture and values. It subscribes to the concept that a well-rounded educational experience is acquired through a combination of traditional academic disciplines and culturally relevant/sensitive activities. The Department of Indigenous Learning encourages students to consider both the interdisciplinary opportunities offered by Lakehead University as well as the knowledge shared by the Aboriginal community as the optimum means of furthering their understanding of Aboriginal Peoples and the community of Aboriginal Peoples.
The goal of the Department is to help to provide for an increasing awareness/appreciation of the life experience of Aboriginal Peoples with a view to creating an environment of understanding and trust amongst all Peoples.
Evolving out of the Native Studies Program, the Department of Indigenous Learning was established by Lakehead University in 1994. It was intended to provide a foundation for the development and delivery of a post-secondary educational program for Aboriginal Peoples. As it was defined in 1994, the Department was to consist of an academic unit responsible for the development and delivery of university level course material and support services. In providing support services the Department was to assume responsibility for providing the support mechanisms necessary to allow students the opportunity to successfully complete a university program of their choice. As well, the Department of Indigenous Learning was also responsible for the Native Access Program which was intended to address the problem of accessibility for Aboriginal students.
In 1996 the Department of Indigenous Learning was redefined, and as it remains today, it is exclusively an academic unit responsible for the development and delivery of an academic program. Including both a Bachelor of Arts and an Honours Bachelor of Arts as well as a Certificate program, the Indigenous Learning academic program features some twenty-nine courses and approximately five shared courses with associated programs/departments.
Indigenous Learning Students
The Indigenous Learning Program attracts a wide cross section of students, many of whom come to Lakehead University specifically for the Indigenous Learning Program. Although the majority of students enrolled in the program or Indigenous Learning courses are from Northwestern Ontario communities such as Thunder Bay, Dryden, Eagle Lake, Whitefish Bay or Pic Mobert, the program also attracts students from Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg and Montreal, as well as international students from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Norway. Because of the experiential learning basis of the program, the diversity of the student population helps to provide for a broadly based classroom experience.
The Indigenous Learning program provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary to not only appreciate and respect the circumstances of Aboriginal Peoples but also to successfully participate in both the aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community. Armed with analytical skills that come from survey construction, census analysis, archival research and the perusal of government records and combined with appreciation and an understanding of the Aboriginal Community, Indigenous Learning students are well suited to confront the realities of a post-university life. Whether through employment in fields such as Human Services, Health Care or Education or through graduate work at the Master's and eventually the Ph.D. level, Indigenous Learning students have successfully utilized the skills acquired through the program.