Karen Sunabacka is an Associate Professor of Music at Conrad Grebel University College. This past October, FAUW sponsored her to attend the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Aboriginal Academic Staff Conference.
The 2018 conference theme was “Advancing Indigenization,” and plenary topics included: new Indigenous scholars, advancing Indigenous academic staff, Indigenizing the academy, Indigenous knowledge, and the state of Indigenous Studies programs in Canada.
After the conference, Karen sat down with FAUW’s Indigenization Working Group to share her reflections on the conference. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us to share with members of our broader community.
What were your expectations or hopes going into the conference?
As a Métis scholar and musician, I was hoping to meet other Indigenous academic staff and hear how Indigenization was going at other institutions in Canada.
What was your biggest take-away?
Indigenization means different things to different groups of people. I was surprised to learn about the differences between the ways University administrations tend to think of Indigenization and the ways individual faculty and/or faculty groups are approaching Indigenization. Faculty are looking at ways to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into the curriculum, they are thinking about incorporating Indigenization into different ways of teaching, and they are looking at organizational structures and how to differently arrange the University structure as a whole (some talk about this as “Decolonizing” the University). Whereas Administrations tend to think of Indigenization as simply having more diversity of faculty, staff, and students.
A message from FAUW’s Indigenization Working Group:
In recent weeks, hundreds of scholars from around the world have signed on to an open letter expressing support for BC’s Wet’suwet’en people and calling on the Canadian Government and the RCMP to cease pipeline work on Unist’ot’en Territory. Read the letter here. If you so choose, you can add your voice as a scholar.
Note: the Indigenization Working Group is an ad hoc committee of FAUW. Its support of the open letter should not be construed as FAUW’s position. Visit our website to learn more about the working group and about Indigenization at Waterloo.
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
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.
Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with three Indigenous students at the University of Waterloo to hear what they would like faculty members to know about their experiences as Indigenous students in higher education.
Kiel Harris (Gitxsan/Gitanyow) is a third-year student in Planning who grew up in northern British Columbia on two different reserves. Kiel had already completed a college diploma before coming to Waterloo and is, therefore, older than many in his cohort. Kelsey Hewitt (Anishnaabe/Lac Seul First Nation) is a third-year student in Geography and Environmental Management who grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo. Kelsey also identifies as a mature student, having not started university straight out of high school. Finally, Anika McAlpine (Cree/Moose Cree First Nation) is a first-year student in Medicinal Chemistry who grew up off-reserve in northern Ontario, in a community that has a large Indigenous population.
Our conversation was broad and far-reaching, touching on challenges related to creating a visible Indigenous space on campus, concerns about implicit bias if students declare their Indigeneity to their professors, and the transitional issues Indigenous students from remote communities might face.
In this blog post, I focus on the students’ ideas about what faculty members can do right now to support Indigenization and Indigenous students in their classrooms. I’ve organized their thoughts chronologically, beginning with the first day of class and carrying through to final assessments.
Earlier this year, in the days and weeks following the devastating one-two punch of the acquittals of two White men on trial for the murders of Colton Boushie and Tina Fontaine, many post-secondary educators asked themselves how they should respond in the classroom. To discuss the topic, CBC Radio One turned to Sheila Cote-Meek, whose 2014 Colonized Classrooms addressed the matter square-on.
Sheila Cote-Meek is a professor of Indigenous Relations, and Associate Vice President of Academic & Indigenous Programs at Laurentian University. In Colonized Classrooms, she reports on and extrapolates from her doctoral dissertation, for which she interviewed fifteen Indigenous university students, faculty members and Elders. Cote-Meek uses Indigenous, post-colonial, feminist, and critical race scholarship ranging from Frantz Fanon and bell hooks to Gregory Cajete and Laara Fitznor to frame and expand upon what she learned in those interviews. Continue reading “Trauma in the Classroom for Indigenous Scholars: How Should We Respond? (book review)”→
I have good intentions when it comes to Indigenizing the university and decolonizing my teaching. I have resources available to help with the latter, but the former leaves me feeling overwhelmed. However, dwelling in a space of inaction is irresponsible. ‘Having good intentions’ won’t address structural injustice (and can perpetuate it).
Thankfully, educator and lawyer Chelsea Vowel wrote a primer for people like me who know that I ought to—and need to—know more than I do about Indigenous issues in Canada. I was attracted to this book because I’m a mega-fan of the Métis in Space podcast, in which Vowel and co-host Molly Swain provide a smart, sarcastic look at representations of indigeneity in science fiction film and television. Vowel brings the same sense of humour to Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada. Continue reading “Reading Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel (book review)”→
If you have received an email from me in the past year, you will have seen this statement in the footer: “I acknowledge that I live and work on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, land promised to Six Nations, which includes six miles on each side of the Grand River.” You have likely heard a similar acknowledgement at campus events in the past year or two. The statement is a territorial acknowledgement.
While reasons for using territorial acknowledgements vary from person to person and from group to group, I now use a territorial acknowledgement in my email, on my course syllabi, at the beginning of research talks, and even in the footnotes of my articles for two main reasons: out of respect for the past and out of commitment to the future.