Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Q and A with the experts: The role of Indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge

Indigenous beaded earrings

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is celebrated globally on August 9. It marks the date of the inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. In keeping with this year’s theme, University of Waterloo historian and anthropologist Talena Atfield, answers questions about the roles of Indigenous women in preserving and transmitting traditional knowledges. Professor Atfield is a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation of the Six Nations of the Grand River.

How do Indigenous women engage in the transmission of cultural knowledges?

I can speak to the transmission of knowledges from my experience as a learner of Hodinohso:ni histories and culture. For Hodinohso:ni peoples, the importance of women in the community is inextricably tied to the land. This relationship began in our creation story with sky woman, who plays an integral role in shaping Turtle Island. Furthermore, the clan system, which is enshrined in our Great Law, defines Hodinohso:ni kinship as being organized through the women’s line – meaning descent flows from our mothers. The Great Law also defines clan mothers’ roles, as an inherited position of responsibility. Some of the most important aspects of the role of clan mothers is to protect children, ensure community decisions consider the coming generations, and advocate for, and protect the land. All people have importance in the community, and there are many ways in which different knowledges are transmitted.

Some of the ways in which Indigenous women transmit important cultural teachings is through artistic practice. In decorating rims of pots, in the creative manipulation of wefts in basket weaving, in beadwork, quillwork, and tufting designs, in painted images, as well as through various teaching methods. Hodinohso:ni black ash baskets, for example, can be regarded as mnemonic devices that carry important cultural stories and teachings. Different weft shapes such as shell weave, faces or popcorn weave, and thistle weave can prompt teachings about the importance of shells such as wampum, the importance of acting in the interests of the generations to come, and the important teachings of plants like the thistle plant, for example. In its youth it rough and prickly, but it becomes soft and gentle as it ages. The weaves of some baskets can also prompt teachings of the creation story and our place in the world through the sky dome motif.

What barriers do Indigenous women face in the transmission of traditional knowledge?

Early and ongoing governmental legislation imposed detrimental barriers to the health and success of Indigenous women, which have impacted Indigenous women’s abilities to fulfill important roles in transmitting teachings to subsequent generations. The Indian Act (1876) dictated that any Indigenous woman who moved off-reserve or married a non-Indigenous or non-status Indigenous person would be removed from her community band registry and would be forced to leave her community. This marked the beginning of the MMIWG2S epidemic. Further legislation in the Indian act, including Bill C-31, which did not fully address the gender discrimination against Indigenous women, and Bill C-3, which continues to impose blood quantum rules on Indigenous women and their descendants, perpetuates the alienation of Indigenous women from the support systems of their natal communities. Legislative efforts to terminate Hodinohso:ni sovereignty through the imposition of band council structure has been argued by Theresa McCarthy (2016) to represent a direct attack on women’s leadership roles and contributions, given the matrilineal, clan-based system of the Hodinohso:ni Nation. The imposition of a colonial governance system over the Hodinohso:ni traditional governance system erases and ignores the important roles Hodinohso:ni women hold in maintaining balance and equity in Hodinohso:ni communities and further diminishes the roles women carry in transmitting important cultural knowledges. Lastly, Residential schooling further removed Indigenous children from their language and cultural responsibilities and values, creating more barriers to the transmission of community knowledges for coming generations. The multi-pronged approach to Indigenous erasure in what is now Canada specifically targeted Indigenous women as carriers and transmitters of their cultures to future generations.

How can people support Indigenous women’s initiatives?

Organizations such as the Indigenous Arts Collective of Canada are engaging in artistic reclamation and regeneration efforts by providing training for Indigenous women through events such as the Indigenous Women’s Art conference. The reclamation of artistic practices is an important tool for community, family, and individual healing. These practices connect us to previous generations through practice-specific knowledge such as where and when to harvest materials, the physical movements of creation, and the stories that accompany creating activities. Furthermore, new generations learn storytelling through their artistic practice and, in turn, learn how to read the art of previous generations. 

The Indigenous Arts Collective of Canada is an Indigenous-led organization that supports and promotes Indigenous women in the arts. There are many ways to support artists through this organization, including purchasing directly from artists through the auction, as well as options to donate and participate in activities for Indigenous women and their families.

Talena Atfield is an Assistant Professor in History at the University of Waterloo. She is a member of the Kanien'kehá:ka Nation of the Six Nations of the Grand River. Previously, she was Curator of eastern ethnology at the Canadian Museum of History.

New diabetes monitor can detect glucose levels using breath

The OrientaMED device prototype

A next-generation diabetes monitor that analyses breath might soon mean no more needle pricks to check blood sugar levels.

The device uses gas sensors to measure breath instantly, then links via Bluetooth with a program on a mobile device to give a readout.

Distinct biomarkers in exhaled breath carry a subtle signature that the device picks up before the app uses a deep learning algorithm to produce rapid individual results.

Nathalia Nascimento, a postdoctoral researcher in the Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, and a team of researchers and health professionals are developing the new health-tech through a startup company called OrientaMED.

“It’s about the size of a mobile phone and also has a detachable mouthpiece,” Nascimento said. “We’ve developed it through a series of prototypes and are getting set for clinical trials.”

The researchers had initially investigated the use of gas sensors to identify various diseases through breath before being encouraged to focus on diabetes specifically since there is nothing of the kind in the field.

“There are many possible uses for the same technology,” Nascimento said. “So many people are living with diabetes and have to go through an uncomfortable daily routine. Our product is hopefully going to make things a little easier.”

OrientaMED co-founder Jullia Nascimento holding the latest prototype of the breath-based diabetes monitor.

OrientaMED co-founder Jullia Nascimento holding the latest prototype of the breath-based diabetes monitor.

The fledgling company has already received support from the European Union, Brazil and health-tech companies. Nascimento said they are now looking to form a partnership as they begin controlled human trials of the product ahead of release to the public.

“We know it will take about six months to do the trials, then another six months to go through the regulatory review process,” Nascimento said. “We’d realistically hope to be able to manufacture the device and start to get it into the world in the next year or so.”

Even ahead of any public release, the new technology is creating excitement. The team has been involved in several startup contests and was recently the winner of the Waterloo-sponsored Concept 5K Challenge. The competition was the culmination of the term end and the largest event for Velocity student participants.

Along with Nascimento, the OrientaMED was founded by biotech researchers Jullia Moraes Nascimento and Rheyller Vargas.

Participants needed for weight loss study

A message from the Metabolism, Exercise Training and Sex Differences (METS) lab.

Two people working out with resistance bands.Are you looking to lose weight? We are recruiting participants for an exercise and weight loss study. Researchers from the Metabolism, Exercise Training and Sex Differences (METS) lab in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo are seeking sedentary, overweight males and females aged 18-45 years for a research study investigating whether the addition of two nutritional supplements to an exercise regime can improve the effects of exercise training on ‘high-quality weight loss’.

‘High-quality weight loss’ is weight loss where you lose the most amount of body fat while maintaining muscle mass. It is important to induce ‘high-quality weight loss’ because maintaining muscle mass during weight loss can help prevent weight regain. We will also determine if these supplements induce greater gains in muscle strength, aerobic fitness, and insulin sensitivity compared with exercise training alone. We are recruiting both males and females for this study because there is evidence that females have a harder time losing weight and that insulin sensitivity doesn’t improve as much in females in response to exercise training, so by recruiting both males and females we can determine the effectiveness of the intervention in both males and females.

If you choose to take part in this trial you will be asked to participate in a series of preliminary testing (4 visits), followed by a series of training sessions (36 visits), then post-testing visits (3 visits) and have blood samples, ultrasound measurements, and a body composition scan taken prior to, and after the training and supplementation period. Training will take place three times a week and will consist of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of resistance exercise. Aside from the potential for weight loss, there are many benefits to participating in this study including: 1) getting information about your aerobic fitness, strength and body composition and seeing how these outcomes improve with training, 2) receiving a personalized training regime that is tailored to your fitness level and that will be adjusted throughout the 12-week program based on your progress, and 3) receiving supervised training from qualified personnel so that you learn proper exercise and lifting techniques. In addition, participants will receive a $100 gift card upon completion of the study. 

If you are interested in participating in this study or have any questions, please contact Jennifer Wilkinson, Department of Kinesiology at 905-414-7897 or j7wilkin@uwaterloo.ca. We encourage all members of the community to participate, so please tell your family and friends as well.

Backpack Challenge supports children and families

Members of the University of Waterloo's special constable services pose in front of a patrol car.

A message from the University of Waterloo Special Constable Service.

The Waterloo Regional Police Service has challenged the community to take part in its fifth annual Backpack Challenge to help support children and families in need.

From now until August 24, 2022, please consider donating one of the following:

  • New Backpacks;
  • Lunch Bags;
  • School Supplies; and
  • Gift Cards.

The University of Waterloo Special Constable Service (SCS) is accepting donations as part of this campaign. There is a drop box in the SCS office (located in the Commissary Building) that is accessible 24/7.

Link of the day

Olivia Newton-John, 1948-2022

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, immigration consulting, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors looking for targeted support for developing online components for blended learning courses, transitioning remote to fully online courses, revising current online courses, and more please visit Agile Development | Centre for Extended Learning | University of Waterloo (uwaterloo.ca).

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

Course templates are available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly.

The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Supports are available for employees returning to campus. Visit IST’s Hybrid Work and Technology guidelines and workplace protocols to assist with the transition.

The Writing and Communication Centre has in-person and virtual services to support grad and undergrad students, postdocs and faculty with any writing or communication project. Services include one-to-one appointmentsdrop-ins at Dana Porter Libraryonline workshopswriting groupsEnglish conversation practice, and custom in-class workshops.  

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action (CCA) has services and programs to support undergrads, grad students, postdocs, alumni, and employees in figuring out what they value, what they’re good at, and how to access meaningful work, co-op, volunteer, or graduate/professional school opportunities. Questions about CCA's services? Live chat, call 519-888-4047, or stop by our front desk in the Tatham Centre 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

Renison's English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

The Library is open with expanded hours for access to book stacks, drop-in individual study space, bookable group study rooms, drop-in access to computers and printers, book pick-up services and IST Help Desk support. Librarian consultations, Special Collections & Archives and the Geospatial Centre are available by appointment. Full details on current services and hours are available on the Library’s COVID-19 Update webpage.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: svpro@uwaterloo.ca or visit the SVPRO website.

The Office of Indigenous Relations is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the University's Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support - MATESGlow CentreRAISEWomen’s Centre - Click on one of the links to book an appointment either in person or online for the term.

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk 24/7 in the Student Life Centre. Drop-off locations are also open again in SLC, DC, DP, SCH, and all residences.

Co-op Connection all available online. 

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at caps@wusa.ca.

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

GSA-UW supports for graduate students: 

The Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) supports students’ academic and social experience and promotes their well-being.

Advising and Support - The GSA advises graduate students experiencing challenges and can help with navigating university policies & filing a grievance, appeal, or petition.

Mental Health covered by the Health Plan - The GSA Health Plan now has an 80 per cent coverage rate (up to $800/year) for Mental Health Practitioners. Your plan includes coverage for psychologists, registered social workers, psychotherapists, and clinical counselors.

Dental Care - The GSA Dental Plan covers 60 to 70 per cent of your dental costs and by visiting dental professionals who are members of the Studentcare Networks, you can receive an additional 20 to 30 per cent coverage.

Student Legal Protection Program - Your GSA fees give you access to unlimited legal advice, accessible via a toll-free helpline: +1-833-202-4571. This advice covers topics including housing disputes, employment disputes, and disputes with an academic institution.

The Graduate House: Open Monday to Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. We’re open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. The Graduate House is a community space run by the GSA-UW. We’re adding new items to the menu. Graduate students who paid their fees can get discounts and free coffee.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join our “Waterloo Warriors” team on the Blood.ca website or app. #ItsInYouToGive

Warriors Youth Summer Day Camps, July 4 to September 2. Open to boys and girls age 5-18. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Multi-Sport and Games & Volleyball. Register today.

FLIGHT Virtual Summer Camp, Tuesday, August 2 to August 13. FLIGHT virtual summer camp provides a strong introduction to tech entrepreneurship to girls aged 13-18 who self-identify as Black or another underrepresented minority.

2022 Global Summit: Nanotechnology for a Healthier and Sustainable Future, Wednesday, August 10 and Thursday, August 11.

PhD oral defences

Psychology. Rukhsana (Roxy) Merkand, "Don’t Ask, I’ll Tell: Investigating Strategy Use During Disability Disclosure at Work." Supervisors, John (Jay) Michela, Ramona Bobocel. Available upon request from the Faculty of Arts, Graduate Studies and Research Officer. Oral defence Thursday, August 11, 9:00 a.m.

School of Public Health Sciences. Somkene Igboanugo, "Applying the Allostatic Load Model to Investigate the Biological Embedding of Psychosocial Stress in Firefighters." Supervisor, John Mielke. Email Health Graduate Administration for a copy. Oral defence Tuesday, August 16, 9:00 a.m., AHS 1688.

Psychology. Christopher Lok, "Lay Theories and Self-Perceptions of Maturity in Young Adulthood." Supervisor, Richard Eibach. Available upon request from the Faculty of Arts, Graduate Studies and Research Officer. Oral defence Tuesday, August 16, 1:00 p.m.

English Language and Literature. Ian Gibson, "Some Mysterious Resonance Between Thing and Language: On Contradiction and the Materialist Theologies of Cormac McCarthy and Marilynne Robinson." Supervisor, Chad Wriglesworth. Available upon request from the Faculty of Arts, Graduate Studies and Research Officer. Oral defence Thursday, August 18, 11:00 a.m.