"We Went in as Strangers, and Left as Friends”: Building Community in the Wahkohtowin Classroom


  • Sarah Buhler University of Saskatchewan
  • Priscilla Settee University of Saskatchewan
  • Nancy Van Styvendale University of Saskatchewan




community-based education, community-engaged pedagogy, Indigenous community engagement, justice education, anti-foundational pedagogy


This paper analyzes interviews with students of an interdisciplinary community-based class in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The class— “Wahkohtowin” (“kinship” in Cree)—brought together university students with youth from Oskayak, an Indigenous High School, and members of STR8 UP, a community-based organization for former gang members. The course centred on the theme of “justice,” and students discussed legal and literary texts related to policing, criminal trials, and prison, and shared their own experiences and stories about justice and injustice. The students described the class as a profound experience of “community,” which caused them to reflect critically upon structures that create and reinforce inequality and estrangement and impact quality of life. This paper describes the class within the larger context of community-engaged pedagogy and Indigenous approaches to community engagement. We explore major interview themes centred on the complexities of creating community in the classroom. Participants discussed encountering “strangers”; telling and witnessing traumatic stories; unsettling privilege; and enacting resistance and solidarity. Ultimately, the Wahkohtowin class intervenes in dominant models of engaged pedagogy and community-service learning, disrupting notions of a university-community binary, and creating a space where students began to practice solidarity and imagine a quality of life based on equality and justice for all.




How to Cite

Buhler, S., Settee, P., & Van Styvendale, N. (2016). "We Went in as Strangers, and Left as Friends”: Building Community in the Wahkohtowin Classroom. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.15402/esj.v1i2.114

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