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NDHU-CIS president Han-Chieh Chao and U of O professor Scott Simon
NDHU-CIS president Han-Chieh Chao and U of O professor Scott Simon. Image: Centre for international Indigenous Affairs at National Dong Hwa University.

The partnership’s goal is a cross-pollination towards decolonization, indigenization, and transitional justice

On Sept. 24,  the University of Ottawa’s faculty of social sciences (FSS) announced that it is partnering with Taiwan’s National Dong Hwa University College of Indigenous Studies (NDHU-CIS).

“This is a really exciting and important project providing a greater opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous here, to learn from Indigenous there,” said professor Scott Simon of the faculty’s school of sociological and anthropological studies. 

Simon said this partnership shares social goals to contribute to decolonization, indigenization, and transitional justice. “We’ve got to see this as a way for our two universities to collaborate on these issues.” 

Simon, who is also co-chair of the FSS’ Taiwan Studies, used to teach at NDHU-CIS, said it has been a work in progress in spearheading these relations. Since 2015, he has been taking U of O students to NDHU-CIS for a field research course on Indigenous Studies and Anthropology. 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was initially signed by NDHU-CIS dean Pasuya’e Poiconʉ on May 19 and FSS dean Victoria Barham signed on Sept.22, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to promote cross-disciplinary scholar cooperation in research and graduate training and projects and to exchange research results.

Simon said overall, it’s up to the U of O community to decide what they want to make out of the deal.

“[U of O] has signed hundreds of MOU’s with other universities, so it’s up to us to make it happen. It gets the administration to look at this a little more carefully and invest a little more time and resources in projects in what we are doing.”

He said with this updated relationship, it will be easier for students and professors to go in between the schools. Simon himself is an honorary NDHU-CIS alumni. 

Gabriella Santini participated in NDHU-CIS programs twice throughout both her bachelor and masters in anthropology at U of O. She said these experiences have greatly enlightened her understanding of  Indigenous experiences internationally.

“I’m glad it finally [came] through,” she said of the increased partnership between the two universities. “I greatly recommend engaging in these exchanges, seeing first hand the similarities and differences.”

U of O law professor Chidi Oguamanam, who has taught courses on international law and Indigenous knowledge, said there is valuable knowledge to be shared from the Taiwanese Indigenous groups.

“Taiwan has a more robust environment for integration of Indigenous knowledge especially in medicine and through their patent and intellectual property regime,” he said over email. “In Canada, we are only starting to scratch the surface of indigenizing and decolonizing our colonial educational system.”

“Most of the heavy lifting needs to be done on such a foundational basis of sensitizing our colonial systems … to proactively include Indigenous peoples and their knowledge systems, not to adapt them to conventional curricular but to create legitimate space for Indigenous knowledge to blossom, said Oguamanam. 

“There is much more to be gained in this kind of partnership, but we must take time to recognize where we are as a country and the heavy lifting required.”

 “While being inspired by developments elsewhere and the benefits of partnerships, we must ensure to be sensitive to our domestic and historical reality in Canada.”