Project adds Indigenous voice into textbook

Paul Mayne//Western News

Kristen Longdo, BA’19 (Criminology/Sociology), added an much-needed Indigenous dimension to a popular sociology textbook used by universities across Canada through Western’s Learning with Head & Heart program, which pairs Indigenous undergraduates and faculty supervisors/mentors to conduct research.

A sociology textbook used by universities across Canada received an Indigenous-focused update in hopes of exposing young scholars to the ongoing issues facing many communities – all thanks to a new Western summer research program.

“We wanted to accurately present Indigenous traditions, culture, teachings and ways of knowing, as well as their history of suffering and cultural discriminations they continue to face today,” explained Kristen Longdo, BA’19 (Criminology/Sociology), who worked on the project through Western’s Learning with Head & Heart program.

Real Life Sociology: A Canadian Approach, co-authored by Western Sociology professor Anabel Quan-Haase, is a textbook that targets first- and second-year university students. The book introduces the core concepts and issues in Canadian sociology, incorporating history alongside contemporary topics like cyberbullying, precarious employment, privacy, and transgender rights.

The book, however, benefited from an expanded scope, incorporating Indigenous issue.

“Ideally, implementing such content will make future students not only aware of what their fellow brothers and sisters have endured, but how they continue to suffer,” Longdo said. “We cannot change the past, but we can shape the future. Young scholars are the future and have the strength in their voices to influence change in society.”

The Learning with Head & Heart program aims to open space for Indigenous students to use Indigenous Knowledge systems and language within undergraduate summer research projects across a variety of disciplines.

Lead by Research Western and Western Student Experience, in partnership with Indigenous Services, the summer program pairs Indigenous undergraduates and faculty supervisors/mentors to conduct research that bridges academic and Indigenous ways of knowing. Students receive $7,650, covering 14 weeks of full-time employment.

Connecting during Quan-Haase’s Technology and Society course earlier this year, the professor soon approached Longdo about assisting with a summer research project.

Longdo added to numerous chapters of the book, touching on areas including Indigenous ways of knowing, storytelling, crime/incarceration, economic equality, socialization and specific incidents including Dudley George and the Ipperwash protests, residential schools and the recently released report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“It’s important to be able to introduce them to the topic of Indigenous history, because it’s very important for first-year students to know,” said Longdo, who now works at the Atlohsa Native Family Healing Centre, where she focuses on the homeless population. “There are a lot of students coming out of high school who didn’t learn much about Indigenous culture. There’s a difference between hearing about it and learning about it.”

Quan-Haase was thrilled to collaborate with Longdo on the project.

“We came together and were able to discuss so many topics we thought would be important for first-year students. I really connected with her,” she said. “We would talk almost every day, would question each other, and came up with some interesting material.”

There are certain topics central to teaching an introductory Sociology course like this, added Quan-Haase, with the challenge for sociologists being building bridges and creating linkages among a number of questions – Indigenous issues being one of them.

“Kristen’s view is always looking towards the future – how can we use this to develop healthier relations, better communities, strengthening of social relations within and across communities,” she said. “She is much closer to the experiences and her own life story can provide a lens into such historical events. I really value her perspective.”