What I really want to leave you today is a sense of who I am and the work I want to do here but also where I’m coming from as an Indigenous person, as an Inuk woman, living here in Kitchener-Waterloo in 2020 …
The other day, my husband … was cleaning up and he discovered my student ID card. That student ID card was dated 1979 and it was for (a course I took) at the University of Waterloo … That illustrates how lengthy my history with the University of Waterloo is … I have a history in this region and I have a very great love for the people that I’ve worked with, and the people that I’m in community with here. I was really fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and to learn from a number of elders those first years …
I’ve been really gifted with a lot of teachings and sacred teachings from the Anishnawbe people. I never had that opportunity when I was living at home in Labrador. There were no ceremonies being done in the years I was growing up there; the drums were no longer in Labrador.
As you can imagine, when the Europeans came to America we were the first peoples they encountered. The Christianization of the Inuit in Labrador started in 1763, which is considerably older than many parts of this country.
As you can imagine, when the Europeans came to America we were the first peoples they encountered. The Christianization of the Inuit in Labrador started in 1763, which is considerably older than many parts of this country.Jean Becker
So many things, like the drums, have returned to Labrador but they returned after I left there. And they returned because people from there were going to places like Alberta because we know that they had sweat lodges and shaking tents at one time.
I spent 13 years at Wilfrid Laurier University where I had the opportunity to work in the Faculty of Social Work to help build something that didn’t exist — an Indigenous field of study in a Master of Social Work program … It’s in its 16th year and has graduated more than 250 Indigenous social workers.
This is the kind of thing I hope I will be able to do here. To begin to decolonize the institution that we’re all working in, to create space, not just for Indigenous people because we always say when we do this work — Indigenous inclusion, Indigenous knowledge — it is for everybody and it benefits everybody. Even the presence of it in an institution benefits the institution. I’ve seen it happen. I’m so excited that it could happen here … I’m looking forward to the coming years and I’m really grateful that you’re all here to begin this with me today.
Watch the lecture:
Photography by Ryan Antooa