A large group of people pose for a photo in front of mountains in Sweden.
Participants of the “Conversations With The Sámi” field school (Photo: Dr. Kim Anderson)

An innovative University of Guelph field school that saw students travel to Sweden to learn about Indigenous identity and culture has just won an award for promoting reconciliation. 

The Canadian Bureau for International Education has presented its Award of Excellence for Reconciliation and Internationalization to Dr. Kim Anderson, a professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition; study abroad manager Allison Broadbent; and Uppsala University professor Dr. May-Britt Öhman for the course they developed called “Conversations With The Sámi.”  

This past summer, the trio arranged a 17 day trip for 10 Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at U of G to travel to Sweden to engage with the Sámi.   

The students learned about Sámi life, land-based practices and cultural knowledge and revival. In Stockholm and Uppsala, they visited universities and local Sámi organizations to hear about the experiences of urban Sámi peoples. They then went north to speak with Sámi about the effects of resource extraction on the environment and communities and to talk with reindeer herders.  

In turn, the U of G group shared insights about Indigenous issues in Canada, including how to bring Indigenous knowledge into universities and restore Indigenous identity and culture. 

Conversation-based learning that hinges on relationships

Hands form a circle. In each palm is a beaded craft.
Sámi students show off crafts they learned from U of G student Emma Anderson.
(Photo: Dr. Kim Anderson)

“It was a moving experience to see how the students and our Sámi hosts made instant connections based on shared experiences of Indigeneity, cultural revival and commitment to reconciliation,” said Anderson, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Relationships and whose department is part of U of G’s College of Social and Applied Human Sciences. 

Anderson recently spoke with CBC Winnipeg about the trip and its importance in knowledge sharing.

The field school was developed through a partnership with U of G’s Centre for International Programs (CIP), which secured funding from the Global Skills Opportunity (GSO) for student travel grants and support and administrative costs.  

“What I love about this program is Dr. Anderson and Dr. Öhman’s idea that it needed to be conversation-based learning, which hinges on relationships – with people, the land, the environment,” said Dr. Lynne Mitchell, CIP director.  “I’m so pleased a new group of students will be going this summer, to continue those learning relationships and conversations.” 

Thanks to the success of the trip and further GSO funding, “Conversations With the Sami” will return next summer. The trip is open to students from all disciplines at U of G. An information session will be held on Nov. 1. 

GSO is a federal student-mobility program that aims to increase the participation of students in international learning opportunities, especially those who have traditionally faced barriers to participation, including students with disabilities, Indigenous students and those from low socio-economic backgrounds.   


Dr. Kim Anderson  

Dr. Lynne Mitchell