Meet Lori Campbell, Director of the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre

On April 18th, the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre (WAEC) was awarded the 2017 Equity and Inclusivity Award. Kathleen Rybczynski, Chair of the Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC), described why the Centre was selected for this year’s award: “The Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre exemplifies community strength, and with tremendous success has established decolonized spaces that celebrate and share Indigenous knowledges. Developing networks within our campus and broader communities, the centre brings people together: supporting, educating, and working toward respect and reconciliation.”

FAUW asked WAEC’s new director, Lori Campbell, to introduce herself to our community. In this post, Lori tells us about her background, WAEC’s initiatives, and what we can do as faculty members to support Indigenous perspectives and projects.

Meet Lori Campbell

Tānsi, Lori nitisiyihkāson. I am Āpihtākosisāniskwēw, a Mētis woman: Nēhiyaw (Cree) and Scottish. My relatives are from Treaty 6 territory in northern Saskatchewan but I have spent most of my life in the Treaty 4 territory of southern Saskatchewan. It is an honour for me to be an invited guest to fulfill the role of Director, Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre (WAEC) on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples and on the Haldimand Tract.

I am an intergenerational survivor of the Indian residential school system and a child from the Sixties Scoop generation. The thing I am most proud of is that over the last 23 years I have managed to locate and contact not only my birthmom and immediate family, but all six of my living siblings who were relocated between Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. This in itself was an educational as well as personal experience about the far-reaching effects of the residential school legacy.

I think we can all agree that University is more than just training people to get a job. It plays a significant role in helping people discover who they are, what they can become, and how they can contribute to society. A university education helps people discover what their gifts are, and what their role can be. This is what education has done for me. I went into Indigenous studies many years ago and my life experiences since have contributed not only to my understanding of Indigenous issues but also to my passion for education.

I come from lecturing at the University of Regina, First Nations University of Canada, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic, where I also became Coordinator of the Indigenous Students’ Centre. My background includes a blend of Student Services, teaching, research, and administrative experience. I have taught and developed curriculum for over 10 years.

What the Centre has been doing

The WAEC has been doing a great job of creating space for Indigenous cultural engagement on campus. We have been hosting weekly soup and bannock lunches sponsored by various University departments and clubs, drumming circles, Elders services, summer camps to engage youth in STEM areas, an annual Powwow, and guest lecturing in classrooms – just to name a few activities. We also collaborate with the Faculties to help host Indigenous expert speakers who fit with their program areas.

WAEC staff and students at the Equity & Inclusivity Award reception.
Photo: St. Paul’s University College.

What’s coming for WAEC—and the whole campus

In fall 2017, we hope to host a grand re-opening of the WAEC to announce its new name as well as our permanent outdoor Ceremonial Fire space. This space will offer opportunities for teaching and knowledge-sharing for the entire campus community. The Centre will be hosting open conversations to discuss what being an ally means, why territorial acknowledgment is important, and why nothing should be done about us, without us. In addition, we will hope to launch our virtual learning commons which will include general knowledge topics as well as content areas specifically geared toward faculty.

In addition to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation, the University of Waterloo, as a member of Universities Canada, has agreed to follow the Universities Canada principles on Indigenous education (PDF). While the principles are relevant to all post-secondary institutions, how they are followed and incorporated is to be determined by each unique institution and, quite possibly, individual faculties.

The role of faculty

I believe that faculty play a very important role—not only as subject matter experts but also as role models. You can make a difference in the lives of all students, including Indigenous students. You can play a pivotal role in providing opportunities for Indigenous students to thrive . . . or not. I suspect many of you already know ways to reach Indigenous students without even realizing it and I would like to serve as a resource for those of you who would like to do just that. Our website will be updated over the next couple of months so please check back regularly to learn about upcoming events:

Lori ACR Campbell

What you can do now

In addition to participating in the opportunities Lori has described above, we have a few suggestions for what you, as a faculty member, can start doing right now:

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