People You Should Know: Lori Campbell, Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre

Our “People You Should Know” blog series interviews key people and offices at the University of Waterloo so you can make the most of their services. 

Lori Campbell is a 2-Spirit nēhiyaw atāpihtāwikosisān iskwew. Okawiya mōniyawi-sākahikanihk, Treaty 6 territory in kīwētinohk kisiskāciwan ohcīw. (Translation: a 2-Spirit Cree-Métis woman. Her mother is from Montreal Lake First Nation, Treaty 6 territory in northern Saskatchewan.) She’s the Director of Shatitsirótha’ Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre (WISC), which is located at St. Paul’s University College at the west end of the campus. We interviewed Lori to help you better understand her role and how it relates to yours.

What does your role involve?

The Centre provides a range of services for Indigenous-identifying students and leads educational opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and administration.

The academic support part of my role includes providing strategic direction on Indigenous education; developing an Indigenous student recruitment strategy; building relationships with internal and external stakeholders; and developing Indigenous academic programming and an Indigenous research agenda.

Why might faculty members be interested in what you do?

Our centre is a refuge for engaging and supporting relationships among faculty, students and staff at the University of Waterloo and in the Indigenous community. We initiate, celebrate, and support cultural and academic events that promote respect, research, relationship building, and reconciliation.

What do you personally bring to this role?

I bring my lived experience as a child of the Sixties Scoop generation and an intergenerational survivor of the Indian Residential School system, as well as two undergraduate degrees (Indigenous Studies and Psychology), a Master’s degree in Adult Education from First Nations University and the University of Regina and, soon, a PhD in Social Justice Education through OISE at the University of Toronto. I follow the cultural and spiritual practices of my Cree and Métis ancestors.

Sometimes these conversations are awkward and difficult, but they are important and I am happy to have them!

What are the most common questions that you hear from faculty?

Faculty often ask me about how they can best include Indigenous perspectives or resources in their course content. There are many great Indigenous-authored resources out there. Some of them are on the FAUW Indigenization webpage and I think that is a good place for faculty to start. The resources on the FAUW site are there to assist faculty in their own learning which will better position faculty to appropriately include Indigenous scholarship and knowledges in their courses. I often have conversations with faculty around understanding protocol, ethical engagement, and positionality. And, I will be honest, sometimes these conversations are awkward and difficult, but they are important conversations and I am happy to have them! This is a learning process for all of us.

What is it about your work that you’re passionate about?

I am passionate about education and the role it can play in the lives of Indigenous peoples, as well as the opportunity to build meaningful relationships, share our history on Turtle Island, and witness transformational learning. What better career could I ask for?!

What surprises you in your work?

I am surprised at how little Canadians know about Indigenous-settler relations in Canada, especially in relation to the formation of what is now our shared country. In the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Indigenous peoples are almost invisible, which is so different from Saskatchewan, where I come from. Many people have never heard of the Sixties’ Scoop, let alone the Residential Schools, and are unaware of the impact these have had on our people. And of course, many people don’t realize that being Indigenous doesn’t only mean dressing in regalia and eating bannock, but living as a whole person in today’s society.

One approach is to encourage students to attend events hosted by WISC that are specifically intended to be educational opportunities.

What is the most important thing you want faculty to understand about your role—or theirs?

I want faculty to understand that “good intentions” have had, and continue to have, devastatingly violent impact on Indigenous peoples. I sincerely appreciate that faculty want to support opportunities for non-Indigenous students to learn about Indigenous peoples, but I caution about going ahead with some initiatives on their own, not understanding the impact these may have on Indigenous students, staff, and faculty.

For example, assignments that encourage non-Indigenous students to research Indigenous peoples, or solve problems for Indigenous peoples, can simply repeat mistakes from the past. And asking the one Indigenous-identified student in your class to speak on behalf of all Indigenous people puts that student on the spot and expects a level of responsibility that the other students don’t have.

One possible remedy for this unintentional slight is to take on some of the research role yourself. For example, you can consult the Tri-Council Policy Statement, Chapter 9: Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Canada, which provides key information regarding ethical engagement with Indigenous peoples for the purposes of research and study. I recognize that often times students are simply doing class projects, not full-out research, but the protocols and impacts are similar.

One approach is to encourage students to attend events hosted by WISC that are specifically intended to be educational opportunities. You can find these events by following the Daily Bulletin, checking the WISC Facebook page, or by dropping by the centre itself. Several faculty already incorporate some of these events in their syllabus and require students to write personal reflections on their experiences, rather than papers about Indigenous peoples.

Another option is to encourage students to enroll in INDG 201: The Indigenous Experience in Canada or even in the newly developed Indigenous Studies minor, to better prepare them for working with Indigenous peoples down the road.

How do you stay healthy?

I am strongly connected to my Cree-Métis culture, our ceremonies, and our teachings. These guide my day-to-day life professionally and personally. I also believe in the medicine of the horse: I come from a long line of horse people. My horse is named Sunrise. He was born at my farm six years ago. His mother was a 24-year-old feral mustang horse from southern Alberta. He stays about 10 minutes up the road from my house and he keeps me healthy—mentally and physically! In addition, I have an amazing partner, two dogs, and great friends and colleagues. Life is good!

What is your leadership philosophy?

I follow an Indigenous leadership philosophy. That is, I build relationships so that I can listen to the concerns and interests of Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and administration on campus and provide the supports that are most meaningful to them. When there are decisions to be made, I bring their voices forward to ensure that I am taking a position that is relevant and helpful to them and that does no harm. I use my position to create opportunities for UW Indigenous peoples; and I have a responsibility to lead in a non-authoritarian, respectful way.

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