Indigenous Knowledges and Anti-Racism: CTE's newest team

Tuesday, January 3, 2023
leslie and crew

In November 2021, CTE hired Leslie Wexler as a Senior Educational Developer in Indigenous Knowledges and Anti-Racist (IKAR) Pedagogies, followed some months later by Nahannee Schuitemaker, Madison Hill, and Jessica Rumboldt who work in more specific areas of IKAR. Having now settled into their individual positions and developed into a distinct five-person team, which includes Savannah Sloat, Manager of Indigenous Initiatives in the Faculty of Science, we asked each of them to share their role, current area of focus, and vision for the future of IKAR at Waterloo. 

Leslie Wexler (she/her) 
Senior Educational Developer, Indigenous Knowledges & Anti-Racist Pedagogies 

Role: Leslie is a Métis woman from Treaty Six territory in northern Alberta and is in the final stage of defending her PhD at the University of Toronto. Leslie’s position has three main areas of focus: 1) contribute to the planning, development, and implementation of institutional strategic initiatives regarding Indigenization and anti-racism efforts in undergraduate and graduate teaching and learning, 2) oversee discipline-specific consultations and facilitation by educational developers, and 3) content creation with an Indigenous, anti-oppressive, and anti-racist focus.  

Current Area of Focus: Leslie oversees and participates in the work of the IKAR Educational Developers across disciplines. Her work is rooted in relationships with people, place, and traditional teachings. She meets faculty and staff wherever they are on their journey by tapping into their curiosity and engagement with Indigenous Knowledges.  

Vision: Leslie’s vision is to see Indigenous Knowledges as a distinct field in higher education. She believes Canadian universities must establish vibrant Indigenous Knowledges programs where traditional knowledge can be explored as a body of thought within the cultural contexts that created it rather than as a comparative discipline. She believes a dedicated space is required where Indigenous scholars can push the boundaries of existing disciplines, identifying and questioning disciplinary practice and remaking field after field.  

Madison Hill (she/her) 
Educational Developer, Indigenous Knowledges 

Role: Madison is a Mohawk woman from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. In her role with the University of Waterloo, Madison provides curriculum development support, educational development, and consultation to the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Environment to implement Indigenous Knowledges into curriculum. Madison has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Management and a Master of Education from Western University in partnership with Six Nations Polytechnic. Her experiences as an Indigenous graduate student inform her work with the graduate programming at the Centre as she creates a parallel track of graduate course offerings from an Indigenous perspective.  

Current Area of Focus: Madison is a community builder who has strong connections in her own community at Six Nations. She connects faculty with specific research interests in discussions around the ethics of engagement and serves on grant and funding proposals that seek to move forward in the best ways possible for Indigenous communities. In any space she enters into, she fosters relationships with a clarity of purpose and enthusiasm that encourage collaboration. Madison is passionate about empowering Indigenous undergraduate students. She hopes to support the work of WISC and find ways to raise up student-led initiatives and voices that respond to the larger curriculum concerns of the university. 

Vision: Madison acts as a natural bridge to Six Nations Polytechnic as she works to create a strong pathway for future generations of Indigenous students to access higher education through their own spaces. As Madison is a third-generation survivor of residentials school, Madison she does not hold the Mohawk language. Another aspect of Madison’s vision is to foster the Mohawk Language program at Waterloo and further the university efforts in all Indigenous languages. 

Nahannee Schuitemaker (she/her) [Click here for pronunciation
Educational Developer, Anti-Racist Pedagogies 

Role: Nahannee identifies herself within the intersection of three “I”s: Indigenous (Kanien’kehá:ka roots), immigrant (first generation Dutch); and invader (multi-generational French Canadian settlers). She uses this framework to speak to her unique perspective and to hold herself accountable in carrying out her work in an authentic way with a focus on the Indigenous experience of racism and locating it in the larger landscape of anti-racism work both within the university and beyond. 

Current Area of Focus: Nahannee is currently working with the School of Pharmacy to support curriculum development and integration of Indigenous topics across the undergraduate degree. She is co-designing a course on Culturally-Safe Patient Care as part of a broader digital learning strategy for other departments to build upon. 

Vision: Within the context of Indigenous Knowledges, Nahannee’s vision is to help centre and amplify knowledge carried and created by our youth, and also by those who are two spirit, queer, trans, non-binary, disabled, or otherwise underrepresented within the conversation of Indigenous Knowledges. This is to reinforce the understanding that not only is knowledge collectively held within communities by all, but that Indigenous cultures and their respective knowledges continue to grow, shift, and change in response to lived experiences and realities. This includes communities on reserve, within urban centres, and all spaces between and beyond. 

Jessica Rumboldt (she/her) 
Educational Developer, Indigenous Knowledges 

Role: Jessica has mixed ancestry with Mi'kmaw and European settler backgrounds. Jessica is in the final stages of a Ph.D. in Gender, Feminist, & Women’s Studies and has completed a Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice Policy. At CTE, Jessica supports curriculum development, educational development, and consultations for the Faculties Engineering, and Mathematics. Additionally, she works to develop new faculty programming, Indigenous orientations in course design, and learning outcomes through Indigenous perspectives. Jessica also works with Elders’ circles and national communities on the larger strategic vision of what Indigenous education looks like.

Current Area of Focus: Jessica is building a series of introductory circles on respecting protocols for elders and knowledge keepers. The series of circles will launch in Engineering for Elder Bill and include experiential and active teachings around offering tobacco, the preparation of heart and mind in approaching elders, understanding the Haudenosaunee principles of “the good mind,” and how to find a spiritual connection through education. Jessica comes to her role from graduate work in Indigenous homelessness, criminal justice, and public policy, and found an immediate connection to the work of Adam Ellis in Social and Legal studies at Waterloo. They are collaborating to launch the The Urban Arts Lab, a space to critically explore social issues that uses the urban arts as a mechanism to conduct cutting edge/socially engaged research that focuses on "street-related" issues; engage in decolonizing/student-centred learning; and provide training in decolonizing arts-based research. 

Vision: Jessica envisions a space that promotes relationship-building and meaningful engagement among the University of Waterloo, communities, and other post-secondary institutions. She hopes to develop an annual national conference for sharing best practices and resources for decolonization and Indigenization. 

Savannah Sloat (she/they) 
Manager, Indigenous Initiatives, Faculty of Science 

Role: Savanah has mixed ancestry with Lenape and Tuscarora family from the Six Nations of the Grand River as well as Scottish and British settlers in the Waterloo Region. Savannah is embedded within the Faculty of Science as Manager, Indigenous Initiatives and co-designs and works with the CTE’s IKAR team to develop action plans for the Indigenization of the Science curriculum, while also focusing on initiatives within the Faculty that enhance recruitment and retention strategies for Indigenous students and faculty and create an inclusive environment that integrates Indigenous knowledge and worldviews. Savannah completed a Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Toronto where their research focused on Indigenous identity politics and relational kinship practices.  

Current Area of Focus: Savannah just completed a project that connects the Faculty of Science with the Ontario Science Centre in a discussion and exhibit that showcases forward-looking Indigenous Ingenuity and innovations, especially in relation to climate and environmental concerns.  

Vision: Building on the work of the Faculty of Science Indigenous Working Group, Savannah’s vision for this work is to create an open community space within the faculty for students, staff, and instructors to come together and engage in learning and place-making. Savannah hopes to support the creation of Indigenous science content to be included in all first-year curriculum, to provide land-based learning opportunities for science students, and to recruit future cohorts of Indigenous scientists.