This post originally appeared on ActiveHistory.ca
By Amy Bell, Scott Cameron, and Thomas Peace
Huron University College is London, Ontario’s oldest post-secondary institution. The college was founded in 1863 to train priests and missionaries to evangelize throughout the Lower Great Lakes.
Over the course of its history, the college has had two locations, one on either side of Deshkan Ziibii, or Thames River, the waterway which today runs through the heart of London. This river has been (and remains for the latter three) of central importance for Attawandaron, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Lenni-Lenape Peoples; a homeland where relationships between nations have been and (are) governed by the Dish with One Spoon Treaty, the 1796 London Township Treaty, and the 1822 Longwoods Treaty. As such, Huron has a deep and complex history interacting with Chippewa of the Thames, Aamjiwnaang, and Bkejwanong First Nations as well as the Haudenosaunee at Oneida of the Thames and Six Nations of the Grand River.
Huron University College played an active transitional role in normalizing a settler presence on Indigenous lands. For much of its history, the church and the college were tightly interconnected: sharing a name, similar heraldry, common resources, staff, institutional structures, and a focus on evangelizing First Peoples.
Today at Huron, there are few reminders or institutional references to Huron’s complex missionary past, its close connection with the Mohawk Institute or Shingwauk Residential School, or even of the Indigenous students who attended the college and went on to become priests and missionaries themselves.
Huron students were introduced to this material in two upper-year classes and over two academic years (2015-6 and 2016-7). In HIS 4202F: Confronting Colonialism: Land, Literacies and Learning, Tom Peace situated Huron’s nineteenth-century collection of missionary books within the context of the Lower Great Lakes. The course challenged students to grapple with the complex ways that education, schooling, literacy and writing have been used, and contested, as imperial and colonial tools to assimilate and dispossess Indigenous people of their Land, culture and political power.Continue reading “Historical Pedagogies & the Colonial Past at Huron University College – Part II”