Guatemalan FNUniv student trip to provide reflections on treatment of Indigenous peoples here and abroad
- Jennifer Francis | June 29, 2018
A Regina professor is taking his students on a unique field trip to Central America.
Dr. Andrew M. Miller, an Indigenous Studies professor at the First Nations University of Canada, has worked on a number of research projects involving First Nations communities in Saskatchewan. Miller is co-leading the “International Indigenous Field Studies” class to Guatemala.
“(The) lens that we’re using is (that) the local small-scale development projects have a different emphasis and outcome than large scale international development projects,” Miller said.
During the trip, the class is going to the Tahoe Resources Escobal site, a Canadian-run silver mine, to experience the location from afar. The community of Mataquescuintla is still feeling the colonizing effects of The Guatemalan Civil War, and the mine has impacted them in a negative way.
Miller explains that the mining company is not recognizing the cultural values of their Guatemalan location, while proudly displaying the Canadian flag on their machinery.
Dr. Simon Gravosky-Larsen, an International Studies professor at the University of Regina and co-lead of the course, said that this company has caused “damage and even death” around the mine.
While visiting the silver mine site with a resistance group, Miller and Gravosky-Larsen are asking the students to reflect on the similarities between Canada’s treatment of Mayan and First Nations people.
Along with the Mayan ruins, Miller plans on taking the class to the Mayan ruins and, as he describes, other “hair raising” locations.
They are visiting archival and torture sites of the Guatemalan Genocide victims. These sites have records of what the Mayan victims said under torture, after they were taken into police custody, and never heard from again. These victims are often called “the disappeared ones”.
Miller says that they have prepared sweet grass for the students to use, as they are going to be dealing with “some heavy stuff”.
Miller is assisting in providing the students with the experiences and understandings they need for their final project, which is to promote justice for Guatemala through advocacy action upon their return home.
Gravosky-Larsen said, “We want them to understand their position and their role within large scale global processes, global economic processes, global political processes, and the global reality of colonization. (On the trip) they’re going to see themselves located within that and recognize themselves as (activists) that can work to make a difference.”