Eduardo Vergolino left a tenured university position to pursue a PhD from the University of Manitoba’s Department of Native Studies. He hopes to return to the Federal Institute of Pernambuco in August 2019 with knowledge that will help foster Indigenous education initiatives in his native Brazil.
In 2015, Brazilian educator Eduardo Vergolino spent all of his savings on a ten-day trip to Winnipeg. A friend-of-a-friend was studying with Dr. Peter Kulchyski at the Department of Native Studies and had introduced the two through email.
Eduardo made the sixteen-hour journey to Canada to discuss the differences between Canadian and Brazilian Indigenous Education systems with Dr. Kulchyski, and to learn more about how he could better serve the Indigenous people of Brazil as an educator himself.
Eduardo happened to set foot on the University of Manitoba campus on the same day of a pow-wow celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Department of Native Studies. He was inspired by the celebration of Indigenous culture at the University, which was like nothing he had seen in his native Brazil.
The next year, he took a leave of absence from his teaching position at the Federal Institute of Pernambuco in Northeast Brazil, and came back to the University of Manitoba to properly begin his doctoral studies.
The federal government of Brazil gives Indigenous schools autonomy over their own curriculum, but in a country that has little connection to their Indigenous history where only 1% of the population is Indigenous, this places the burden of responsibility directly on the Indigenous community. As a result, Indigenous schools end up using the same textbooks, following similar curriculum and observing the same yearly schedule as non-Indigenous schools.
Eduardo is interested in what the educational system in his home country can learn from Indigenous schools in Canada. He hopes to eventually help Indigenous groups in creating curriculums that reflect their traditional knowledge, and to foster greater representation of Indigenous culture at educational institutions.
In Brazil, it’s rare to find a Department of Native Studies at any university. The Federal Institute of Pernambuco is working towards having a greater representation of Indigenous culture in Brazilian academia, most notably by creating a Post-Baccalaureate program specifically for Indigenous students. Eduardo is also a founding member of GEDin Sertão, a pioneering research institute in Brazil dedicated to Indigenous education.
“People are having discussions about Indigenous issues everywhere right now,” Eduardo points out, noting that in Manitoba the conversation seems especially strong. Eduardo hopes to bring Indigenous education initiatives, like the graduation pow-wows and work-study programs run by the University of Manitoba, to his university back home.
Eduardo is facing his candidacy exams in September, and his students are eagerly awaiting his return to Brazil in August 2019. He will be sad to leave Winnipeg, but he explains that “in Brazil, I’m going to be more helpful—and it’s too cold here.”
Read more about Eduardo’s research at the links below: