Indigeneity and Japanese Trans-pacific Migration

This project tests a brand-new, decolonized approach to recruiting and preparing Indigenous and under-represented low-income visible minority students for a culturally relevant, industry focused, study abroad experience in Japan.

Project Dates: December 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021
Funding Amount: 25,000
Students Hired: 2 students

It takes an integrative, thematic approach to increase the participation of targeted students through the cultural relevancy of the topic, a decolonized, asynchronous pedagogy and a planned and supported study abroad experience.

The project uses the Canadian fishing industry as a vehicle to explore issues of trans-pacific migration, indigenous sovereignty, ethnic and intercultural relations, and globalization. Canada is a nation built on fish and the fishery remains culturally and economically integral to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. The country has one of the world’s largest fishing economies serving Asia-Pacific markets. Globally, commercial fishing is projected to grow at CAGR of 6.9% to 2026. It is also an industry that has relied upon the multi-generational participation of Asian Canadians.

Project overview

The purpose of this initiative will be to facilitate peer support and interaction in order to address perceived barriers and challenges in considering study aboard experiences by various groups of students. Anecdotal evidence acknowledges that attitude, confidence, appetite for risk taking, knowledge about opportunities, lack of encouragement to participate, time away from family commitments, time-away from employment, and financial challenges have potential to discourage certain groups of students to consider study abroad as an opportunity for experiential learning.

This project has three inter-related components:

  1. Website – The project will engage learners through a web portal that serves as a recruitment tool, gateway to course and field school material and a supported learning community.
  2. Course – Canada’s West Coast fishing industry will be the topic of an asynchronous 3-credit university transferrable social sciences course that is accessible from the website. Kwakwaka╩╝wakw fishers on Vancouver Island and the pre-World War 2 migration of Japanese fishers from Wakayama to their unceded, traditional territories will serve as a place-based case study.
    Partner faculty from Japan will support the creation of the decolonized curriculum alongside community-based Indigenous and Japanese Canadian knowledge-holders. The course will be developed in video-based modules and include virtual discussion groups also attended by Japanese faculty and their students.
  3. Field School – The project includes a 3-credit field school in the Kansai region of Japan that explores the history and current contexts of the Japanese and Canadian fisheries. Students will visit the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka which raised a totem pole by Bill Henderson, a Wei Wai Kum master carver and fisher. The fishing village of Mio, Wakayama, the ancestral home of many Japanese Canadian fishers, will be a second field school site. Mio will raise a Skwxwú7mesh totem pole to honour its historic connections to Canada’s fishing industry and the Coast Salish peoples this spring.

An affiliated initiative to have Japanese students’ study abroad in Canada will complement the project.

Project Contact

Lisa Domae, PhD, RPP, President and CEO, NIC

Project Outcomes

This project innovates by increasing the participation of targeted students in non-traditional study abroad experiences through the creation of a brand new, decolonized pedagogic study abroad model that is culturally relevant for Indigenous and low income, visible minority students. This initiative innovates by directly addressing the largest non-financial barriers to under-represented student participation in study abroad experiences – academic credit, personal relevancy, access, and student support services. The project also innovates through the participation of Japanese faculty and students as well as community-based knowledge holders in Canada and Japan, from conception to completion.

NIC is a teaching focused community college situated in coastal communities on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Our work to support the region’s transition to globalized knowledge-based industries and economies is hindered by the absence of Indigenized, international learning opportunities linked to the fishing, mining and forestry industries.

NIC has neither a field school experience in a non-traditional country nor a study abroad program that is culturally and economically relevant to the Indigenous and visible minority people in our service region. Twenty-one percent of NIC’s domestic student population in credit courses is of self-declared Indigenous ancestry. 

This project creates a new partnership between academic based teaching faculty and scholars in Canada and Japan, Indigenous cultural knowledge holders, museum professionals and industry representatives toward creating new resources for study and work abroad opportunities. Through this project, our existing Canada-Japan community-based participatory action-research (CBPAR) network widens to include scholars of Indigeneity, Indigenous culture holders as well as members of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishing industries.

Program funded through Employment and Social Development Canada, Government of Canada, and administered by Colleges and Institutes Canada.