Annotated Timeline for Integrative Science

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NOTE:  The chronological order of the information provided here is oldest at the top of the page and most recent at the bottom of the page.


Integrative Science originated as a globally unique undergraduate science program that was proposed in the mid-1990s at Cape Breton University.

As a proposal, the overall intent for Integrative Science was to create radically innovative science programming that could bring together scientific knowledges and ways of knowing from Indigenous (or Aboriginal) and Western (or Eurocentric, conventional, or mainstream) worldviews. Indeed, the dream that one day the educational mainstream might recognize the Indigenous sciences alongside the Western sciences has been, for Mi’kmaw Elder Murdena Marshall, a long held, important life aspiration. In that Murdena is a Spiritual Leader for the Mi’kmaw Nation, it is not surprising that the Integrative Science program came into existence at Cape Breton University, the institution where Murdena worked for many years, retiring as an Associate Professor of Mi’kmaw Studies in the late 1990s and receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Cape Breton University in 2009. Cape Breton University is also home to more Mi’kmaw students than any other post-secondary institution in Atlantic Canada.

The proposal for Integrative Science was a response to Elder Murdena’s visionary dream as well as to specific additional thoughts expressed by other representatives from the Mi’kmaw Nation. Interest was focussed on reversing two situations: (1) the under-participation of Mi’kmaw students in post-secondary science and science-related programs [a situation also found at other universities across Canada and among other Aboriginal Peoples in Canada], and (2) the failure within the mainstream science community to acknowledge Indigenous knowledges in science or science-related curricula.

Mi’kmaw community members felt that action towards reversing the second of the above could serve as an essential, concurrent step to reverse the first. It was felt that culturally inclusive curricula would help attract and retain Mi’kmaw students into and within post-secondary science.

The low to non-existent participation in university level science by Mi’kmaw students was worrisome in the face of the rapidly increasing needs in all Mi’kmaw communities for scientifically educated personnel in sectors such as health and medical services, natural resource planning and management, and elementary through high school education. Furthermore, this low to non-existent participation in science was vexing in that for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Mi’kmaw people were the scientists of Atlantic Canada – they had rich and complex knowledge about the medicines, the plants, and the animals in their waters, lands, and skies and they transmitted and enriched this knowledge, generation to generation, via highly effective, traditional modes of teaching and learning.

Consequently, a small of group of visionaries from Eskasoni and the university gathered together and met several times during 1996 and 1997 to develop meaningful new actions. Additional key events included:

February – July 1996: Development of a new ethnobotany course (Mi’kmaw 192), with first delivery conducted by Mrs. Pixie Williams in Summer 1996.

December 1996: Discussion at Cape Breton University about development of additional academic programming for “Traditional Ecological Knowledge”; open invitation with participants coming from Mi’kmaw communities and the university.

Winter 1997: Discussion and development of a proposal for a Mi’kmaw College Institute at Cape Breton University by the Department of Culture, Heritage and Leisure Studies, including provision for additional new initiatives in ethnobotany and related alternative sciences.

11 February 1997: Dialogue at Cape Breton University with Dr. Gregory Cajete, Native American educator and scientist from the University of New Mexico. Sponsored by Cape Breton University’s Centre for International Studies; open invitation with participants coming from Mi’kmaw communities and the university.

8 April 1997: Dialogue at Cape Breton University with Stephen Augustine, Hereditary Chief of the Mi’kmaw Grand Council. Sponsored by Cape Breton University’s Centre for International Studies; open invitation with participants coming from Mi’kmaw communities and the university.

12 May 1997: Dialogue at Cape Breton University with Leroy Little Bear, LLD, University of Lethbridge, and special guests: Amethyst First Rider, Sakej Henderson (University of Saskatchewan) and Dr. Marie Battiste (University of Saskatchewan). Sponsored by Cape Breton University’s Centre for International Studies; open invitation with participants coming from Mi’kmaw communities and the university.

13 May 1997: Round Table Discussion for stakeholders in Aboriginal Education, hosted by President Jacquelyn Thayer-Scott, President and Vice-Chancellor, Cape Breton University, and held in Membertou First Nation.

19 June 1997: Proposal for Integrative Science as a new concentration within Cape Breton University’s proposed new Bachelor of Science Community Studies (BScCS) degree released to all Cape Breton University academic deans and departmental chairs. The cover letter was signed by Mrs. Murdena Marshall, then Associate Professor of Mi’kmaw Studies, Department of Culture, Heritage, and Leisure Studies, School of Community Studies.

25 June 1999: Approval by Cape Breton University’s Board of Governors of the Integrative Science proposal as a concentration within the BScCS degree. Department of Biology within School of Science and Technology viewed as the home department for the Integrative Science academic program.

28 June 1999: Proposal for Integrative Science program submitted by Cape Breton University to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC), an agency of the Council of Atlantic Premiers that assists institutions and governments in enhancing a post-secondary learning environment that reflects the values of quality, accessibility, mobility, relevance, accountability, scholarship, and research. Read the academic degree program profile for Integrative Science, as submitted to MPHEC.

Spring 1999: Research funding (Phase 1 only) awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada to Dr. Cheryl Bartlett (via PA Steve Kavanagh) for Integrative Science research project within CURA (community-university research alliance) program entitled “Bringing Knowledges Together”.

Spring - Summer 1999: Recruitment, by Ms. Ann Denny and Ms. Shelly Denny of Cape Breton University’s Mi’kmaw College Institute, of the first cohort of students for first-year courses within Integrative Science congruent with new initiative called MSAP (Mi’kmaw Science Advantage Program).

September 1999: First cohort of students (N=21) begin academic work in first-year courses of Integrative Science, as part of the Mi’kmaw Science Advantage Program (MSAP) administered by the Mi’kmaw College Institute at Cape Breton University. Read the 1999-2000 course composition for MSAP.