Monday, February 26, 2024

Creating spaces for belonging

The Faculty of Science is embedding Indigenous knowledges and spaces into science scholarship

By Darren McAlmont, University Relations


When Savannah Sloat joined the University of Waterloo as the manager of Science Indigenous Initiatives, she knew that to make meaningful change she would have to operate primarily from the responsibility she has to her community and then apply the institutional framework. As Tuscarora and a registered member of Six Nations of the Grand River, Sloat purposefully uses the Indigenous parts of her identity to centre her work on identity, politics and personhood. 

This approach led her to create Waterloo’s new Indigenous Science Centre, a space providing support and engagement with Indigenous knowledges and culture for students, staff and faculty. 

“I think this initiative was a unique position for the University of Waterloo to be real leaders in Indigenization — because intersections of environment and health are very common, but folks don't always perceive Indigenous folks being present in the hard sciences,” Sloat says. 

Savannah Sloat,Faculty of Science, Manager, Science Indigenous Initiatives

Committed to being a leader in preserving and sharing Indigenous histories and cultures on campus, the Faculty of Science embarked on several purposeful initiatives to offer Indigenous students spaces that support their identity and sense of belonging.  

Deliberate also about operating in the spirit of community, Sloat collaborated with Madison Hill, who is Mohawk and a registered member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, to co-lead the development of Indigenous curriculum modules for all first-year students, with support from the Departments of English and Communication.  

In fall 2023, the science communications course, a core requirement for all science students, included traditional ecological knowledge module. This work is currently being extended to other science courses, sprung from faculty members’ curiosity to find “natural places” to fit Indigenous frameworks into their teaching methodology and courses.  

“For me, I’m always thinking about how we can open up the institution to make it more inclusive to Indigenous knowledges and how we can bridge those gaps between one another more holistically.”