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MA in Indigenous Governance Program Chair Dr. Gabriel Nemogá-Soto Develops New Course

Graduate Studies


LandscapeThe Faculty of Graduate Studies recently connected with MA in Indigenous Governance Program Chair Dr. Gabriel Nemogá-Soto to talk about a new field course he has been developing.

Can you describe this course and who might be interested in taking it?

- This course addresses Human and Indigenous Rights in Latin America. It focuses on the struggles of Indigenous nationalities and other marginalized minority groups that have faced discrimination and violation of their fundamental rights. In response to such repression, Indigenous nationalities and communities have developed innovative strategies, alliances and forms of political participation to achieve recognition of their rights and to contribute to new political configurations in the region. The course will analyze how the recognition of Indigenous peoples´ rights in the international arena has promoted a wave of inclusive multicultural political constitutions while at the same time the political circumstances challenge the effective implementation of Indigenous rights. The first time the Human and Indigenous Rights in Latin America course will focus on Colombia because of the exceptional long internal conflict, the relevance of Indigenous peoples and the current peace talks between the Colombian government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), the oldest guerrilla movement in the continent. Topics include contested definitions of individual and collective rights, responses to human rights abuses, and intersections between human rights frameworks and related peacebuilding processes. The course structure has an on-campus portion and a field course component in Colombia.

- Students interested in history and cultural diversity in other parts of the world, particularly in Latin America should take this course.  Participants will explore and learn about Colombian history, key social and political processes and actors, peace negotiations initiatives, community peace building projects, the Colombian Indigenous movement, and governmental and non-governmental peace initiatives. The participants will have discussion sessions with representatives of Indigenous organizations, peace community initiatives, academic institutions and interactions with students of the Masters Program in Social Conflict and Peace Building of the University of Cartagena, Colombia.

What will the students be doing in Colombia?

The field section of this course includes visiting three main regions in Colombia, the Atlantic coast, the central region, and the Cauca region in the South.  In the Atlantic coast, participants from the Master Program in Social Conflict and Peace Building of the University of Cartagena will join in the course. The students will be staying in the colonial city of Cartagena. The course will visit two peace building community initiatives lead by Afro-Colombian people.

After the Atlantic Coast, the course will move to the capital Bogotá, the main cultural and political center of Colombia and while in Bogotá, students will travel to a sacred site, Guatavita Lake, where Muisca people conducted ceremonies. Relevant NGOs and academic centers like the National University of Colombia and governmental initiatives on peace and historical memory will also be visited.

The students’ last region of the field course is the southern province of Cauca, where the first Colombian Indigenous organization was established in the 1970s. Participants will meet with leaders of the Indigenous Regional Committee of Cauca (CRIC) and learn about the historical and contemporary struggles of Indigenous peoples in the region and in Colombia. Students will also learn about the Autonomous Indigenous Intercultural University (UAIIN) and its community inspired academic programs and the initiative of the Indigenous Guard, which provides protection and self-governance to the Indigenous people of the region.

How does this fit with the MAIG program?

This course promotes direct contact between students of our MAIG program and Indigenous peoples outside Canada. It facilitates access to learning experiences and understanding of the diverse political, economic, environmental and cultural challenges relevant to indigenous governance and self-determination in other parts of the world. The course also offers critical information and practical learning approach to those interested in human rights and peace building processes. This graduate course is cross listed with the 4000-level Human Rights & Global Studies course.

What inspired you to develop this course?

Being indigenous myself, I constantly feel the need to expose Canadian students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to the history and situation of Indigenous peoples in Colombia. Although the colonization processes imposed by England and Spain have similarities there are striking differences that any scholar interested in Indigenous issues should address. Additionally, the condition of Indigenous peoples in a developed country like Canada and in a country like Colombia promotes different strategies for preserving Indigenous identities and recognition of Indigenous rights. While in Canada, Indigenous peoples are dealing with the Residential Schools legacy and reconciliation, Indigenous peoples in Colombia are dealing with the impact of a 60 year internal armed conflict, where paramilitary, guerrilla and army forces disrupt their everyday life, territories and cultures. There are also commonalities shared by Indigenous peoples and communities such as natural resource exploitation and limited enforcement of UN standards on duty to consult and free and prior informed consent which could ground solidarity and alliances’ building between Indigenous peoples.

Thinking of the inspiration for this course, I am glad that I met with Professor Dean Peachey, Director of Global College. He has conducted similar courses in South Africa and has also similar ideas for this course. His support and guidance has been critical to develop this initiative. I will be working with María Lucia Zapata, a PhD candidate and Rosa Jiménez, the Academic Coordinator of the Master Program in Social Conflict and Peace Building, University of Cartagena, Colombia.

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