U of S graduate students visit Norway, gaining firsthand insights into northern issues

Students in the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development's Master of Northern Governance and Development program tour a local business in Kirkenes, Norway

Students in the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development’s Master of Northern Governance and Development program tour a local business in Kirkenes, Norway

Northern Saskatchewan students in the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development’s Master of Northern Governance and Development (MNGD) program have just returned from a 10-day international field school in Kirkenes, Norway where they got to experience another northern culture. The trip is funded by Cameco Corporation, the Government of Saskatchewan, and Norway’s Barents Institute.

While in Norway, the students attended lectures and toured a variety of sites including local fish and cheese farms and businesses where they had a chance to learn how people in those communities deal with issues they face, such as protecting their culture and the environment. Many issues they encountered were not unlike those experienced at home.

“Some of the most impactful learning we did was outside the classroom,” said Helen Ben, who is a resident of Loon Lake and a member of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council. Our group visited an agricultural and bioforest centre where we learned about the research they do to determine the effects of the nearby nickel mine, as well as to protect the local environment. We attended a presentation from the local mayor who explained the issues they deal with as a municipality.”

Brandon White, a Métis student from La Ronge said: “We learned about the market economy and the challenge of different cultures in the classroom, but it is only when we come out and see the consequences for people that theory becomes real. It’s not often you get such an opportunity.”

Most of the students on the trip are from communities across Northern Saskatchewan where they are taking the MNGD program through a combination of in-classroom and videoconferencing classes, research internships in the community, and the international field school.

“It’s important that the Master of Northern Governance and Development students experience another northern region of the world and its social and economic developments,” said ICNGD Graduate Chair, Dr. Bonita Beatty. “It’s important for northern students, particularly Aboriginal students, to take advantage of opportunities that enable them to see developments beyond their own communities; perhaps even being able to adapt innovative ideas to help build their own communities. The training and experiences that students will gain from the field school and the program will certainly broaden their perspective and change the way they look at their North as a significant region—not only in this country, but also in the world.”

“It was very interesting to see and learn how the Sami (Norway’s indigenous people) are struggling to retain their culture and language” said Frances Goulet, a resident of Creighton and a member of the Onion Lake First Nation.It reminded me of home, where language is such an important way for us to maintain our identity and way of life.”

The Master of Northern Governance and Development program is accepting applications for its fall 2014 class until May 1, 2014. More information is available at usask.ca/icngd.

You can view a short video about the 2014 field school by visiting www.youtube.com and entering ‘Northern Neighbours SIU’ into the search field.