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A Deeper Exploration of the Doukhobor Connection to Peace

Selkirk College Instructor Takaia Larsen at the Mir Centre for Peace on the Castlegar Campus where Peace 216: The Doukhobors will be offered from April 27 to May 1. — Bob Hall photo

Selkirk College is cracking open the door to one of the most influential cultures in our region with a new Mir Centre for Peace Summer Institute offering starting at the end of April.

An intensive five-day course, Peace 216: The Doukhobors offers a study of the Doukhobors and their connection to issues of peace and conflict. Open to everyone, the course will explore the beginnings in Russia to the current realities. Doukhobor history and culture will be examined with attention to themes of peace, pacifism, violence and non-violence, community, and utopia.

“I hope that people leave with a good sense of context that starts in Europe and carries forward into the Canadian context of nation-building and alternative communities within that process,” says Selkirk College Instructor Takaia Larsen, who will be leading the summer institute class.

“We want people to feel like they have had a genuine experience in being immersed in the Doukhobor culture of our region, both historical and contemporary.”

The imprint the Doukhobor community has made on the West Kootenay-Boundary region is significant and the course is an opportunity to explore the depth of that impact. The design of the course will enable those with roots in the culture to learn alongside those curious to gain a better understanding.

“Even people that grew up in the community feel they don’t have a full understanding of their family’s experiences in terms of the 19th Century context in Russia,” says Larsen.

“The course will trace all of that and it’s going to have a heavy focus on their experiences in the role of creating the modern world, creating an alternative life within the growth of nationalism and the modern state.”

A Foundation of West Kootenay Culture

Larsen grew up in Castlegar and though not born into the Doukhobor culture, has been heavily influenced through a life spent with good friends who welcomed her into gaining a deeper understanding.

“I have genuine envy for the food and the culture,” she says with a smile. “Their emphasis on food and singing and community is very soothing and very comforting. I feel lucky to have grown up with the influence of this culture.”

After high school, Larsen started her post-secondary career at Selkirk College in the School of University Arts & Sciences.

She moved onto Okanagan University College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and English. Larsen’s Master of Arts in History was completed at the University of Victoria.

Larsen has been a Selkirk College instructor in History and Peace Studies for the past seven years. Specializing in B.C. history and West Kootenay history, Larsen has published work on the impact of women in Trail during the Second World War, the 50 years of Celgar in the West Kootenay and is currently working on the impact the building of the dams had on communities along the Arrow Lakes.

Peace 216 is a new course being offered at Selkirk College, but Larsen says it’s an extension of some of the courses she teaches on a regular basis.

“Over the years the Doukhobors have become a larger and larger part of the West Kootenay History course,” says Larsen. “I find it very difficult to talk about a lot of the time periods in the West Kootenay without mentioning what part the Doukhobors played in that incident.”

Learning Through the Lives of the People

An important element of the Peace 216 course will be the guest speakers and field trips. The classroom component of the course will take place in the mornings at the historic Mir Centre for Peace on the Castlegar Campus.

In the afternoons, students will have the opportunity to visit important cultural locations and hear from knowledgeable guest speakers.

“We have a huge asset of history and landscape that come together here at the confluence,” says Larsen.

“This is just one step in that direction, because it gives people and students that extra level of learning that you can’t get when you are not in the landscape.”

The Peace 216 course will require students to complete an on-line component prior to the week-long session which runs from April 27 to May 1.

A final assignment will then be undertaken to successfully complete the class. Participants are not required to be a current Selkirk College student, but Peace 216 is available as a University Arts & Sciences transfer course for three credits.

The fee for the course is $300 plus GST and registration for the course closes on April 13.

For more information please contact 250-365-1233 or go to selkirk.ca.