‘Schitt’s Creek’ Star, and His Fans, Are Taking Indigenous StudiesBreaking News
tags: Canadian history, First Nations People, Indigenous history
TORONTO — Before the Canadian show “Schitt’s Creek” swept the Emmys this month and catapulted its creator, Dan Levy, into Hollywood’s stratosphere, he announced that he was going back to school, and wanted his fans to join him.
Within two weeks, 64,000 people had signed up for the online course he was taking, “Indigenous Canada” — more than had completed the free program over its three-year history.
In an era of celebrity endorsement and “voluntourism,” Mr. Levy has turned the fire hose of his ever-growing popularity to a matter that Canada struggles openly with — how to atone for systemic racism against the country’s Indigenous people, and rebuild those relationships.
“Because if 2020 has taught us anything,” Mr. Levy explained in his Instagram post about taking the course, “it’s that we need to actively relearn history.”
Created in 2017 by professors at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the 12-week course covering Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada is entirely online, with no real-time professor interaction.
But since he began the classes, Mr. Levy has broadcast a study group every Sunday afternoon in which he meets virtually with professors from the university to go over the lessons, which cover topics like creation stories and an Indigenous perspective on the hundreds of treaties that First Nations signed with the colonial government to share land.
Every week, thousands of people watch.
“I’m learning a lot of this embarrassingly late in the game,” Mr. Levy said during the first discussion. “But ultimately these stories are crucial to the identity of our country.”
In 2015, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission put out a historic report detailing Canada’s horrifying history of using residential schools as weapons of assimilation against Indigenous people. Over more than a century, Indigenous children were separated from their families and cultures and forcibly sent to those schools. Many were physically and sexually abused.