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UBC to help students understand Aboriginal peoples and issues following ‘Pocahontas’ chants

Officials from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business say they will be implementing measures to help students better understand Aboriginal peoples and issues. This comes following reports of the so-called Pocahontas chants used during the September 2013 Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS) FROSH events.

The chants were based on the Walt Disney Pocahontas animated film.

The Pocahontas chants apparently use lines such as ‘white man, steal our land’ and students would sit in a circle and bang on the ground.

“The report we are releasing today shows us there is very little awareness of Indigenous peoples and their concerns among the students we interviewed,” says vice president, Students Louise Cowin. “Clearly, UBC has a role to play in educating students to become more culturally competent.”

Students reported the chant after details came to light about the ‘rape chant’ controversy. Following those details UBC’s CUS announced it will be ending its annual FROSH orientation event.

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Sauder School of Business Dean Robert Helsley says the school will set up workshops involving the university’s First Nations Studies Program, include Indigenous topics in the core business curriculum, and redesign the orientation of first-year students.

“The Sauder School is deeply committed to building a positive culture of respect and responsibility,” says Helsley. “We need to fully engage our students on the themes of Indigenous culture, social justice and ethics. This is integral to corporate social responsibility in the 21st century.”

The students who were involved in the ‘Pocahontas’ chants have already had discussions with faculty and students of the UBC First Nations Studies Program.

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is asking universities to integrate awareness of Aboriginal issues in professional education,” says Linc Kesler, senior advisor to UBC president Stephen Toope on Aboriginal affairs. “This is a meaningful and significant response on the part of UBC.”

UBC Sauder School of Business – measures announced:

  • Curriculum development: Strengthening content on the broader aspects of diversity, ethics and responsibility, including Indigenous topics.
  • Sauder-hosted events: Planning events to build awareness and understanding on issues of diversity, inclusivity, respect and ethical leadership.
  • CUS leadership: Build understanding and awareness on Aboriginal issues and the effects of systemic racism on Indigenous communities through conversations with Daniel Justice, Chair of UBC’s First Nations Studies Program (FNSP).
  • Ongoing engagement on Aboriginal issues: Working with FNSP to put in place workshops for students, faculty and staff.

Orientation reform: Committing necessary resources and personnel to orient 1,000 new students annually, and collaborating with the CUS, students, faculty and alumni in developing an orientation program that will serve as a model for the university community

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