magazine f i r s t n at i o n s h o u s e • u n i v e r s i t y o f t o r o n t o • f a l l / w i n t e r 2 0 15
Good Medicine The Office of Indigenous Medical Education is Carving a Path for the Next Generation
One Student’s Artwork Illuminates Indigenous Power
Truth, Reconciliation + Education
“We call on the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation of Aboriginal Peoples.” – trc call to action #10
CONTENTS Fall/Winter 2015 First Nations House Magazine
Volume 2 • Issue 2
Indigenous Education Week Learning at FNH
A WOMAN’S WORK Candace Brunette
Painting Resilience Lisa Boivin
PRESIDENT’S AWARD - grad Earl Nowgesic
Good Medicine Office of Indigenous Medical Education
PRESIDENT’S AWARD - undergrad Curtis Sobchak
MY PATH TO A PhD Brenda Wastasecoot
Indigenous Events Book launches and workshops
GRADUATE TOGETHER Angela Mashford-Pringle
Fnh logo beadwork created by Lindy Kinoshameg. Lindy is a fourth-year student in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Physical Health & Education, and a graduate/coordinator of the university’s Summer Mentorship Program for high school students of Indigenous and African ancestry.
Advisory Council Lee Maracle, Susan Blight director Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo Editor Anita Christoff Design Fresh Art & Design Inc. Cover Photography Ethan Horst Mitchell
VISIT US ONLINE @ issuu.com/fnhmagazine
Contributors Lisa Boivin, Anita Christoff, Shak Gobért, Angela Mashford-Pringle, Trina Moyan, Christine Smith-McFarlane, Brenda Wastasecoot
Printer Colour Innovations
Photographers Dave Chidley, Erin Howe, Ethan Horst Mitchell, Stefanie Neves
To request your copy of fnh Magazine, or if you are interested in writing for us, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by First Nations House, University of Toronto, 563 Spadina Avenue, Toronto ON M5S 2J7.
The Journey to Reconciliation by jonathan Hamilton-Diabo
his issue is full of stories of the work of reconciliation in progress at the University of Toronto and First Nations House.We are pleased to see that the desire to build relationships with Indigenous people has significantly increased since the release of the Truth and econciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. An underlying theme of the TC eport is the need to establish relationships so we can progress together. At the U of T, we are committed to this shared journey toward reconciliation. And we know that to get there, a foundation of understanding and trust must be built and fostered, or very little will happen. So how do we get there? At a symposium, one speaker, who works with First Nations communities across the country, said the essential element is this: “The ability to listen. Listen. And then, listen some more.” This is harder than it sounds.There is an overpowering tendency to do something. Be action-oriented. Get moving. However, without first gaining a full understanding of the issues, the result is often solu-
“…‘reconciliation’ is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship…” – TRC Report, Vol. 6
Misdiagnosis ON THE COVER Dr. Lisa Richardson, co-lead of the Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Indigenous Medical Education, photographed with first-year medical student and President’s Award – Undergraduate winner, Curtis Sobchak. ON THE BACK COVER Never Again: artwork appears courtesy of Plains Cree artist George Littlechild, © Copyright www.georgelittlechild.com.
tions that don’t work, or are short-lived “Band-Aid” solutions. eally listening to Indigenous communities – then working with them, instead of deciding and acting for them, is the answer. As Lee Maracle, renowned author and teacher, often says,“Nothing for us without us.” If Indigenous people are not equal partners or leaders in seeking solutions for address community concerns, we are no further ahead. To truly engage Indigenous people, time is required. econciliation will not happen overnight; there is much work to do. However, if done in a respectful manner, the outcome will be tremendous.
First Nations House Magazine 3
Education Week 2 Annual inspirational and educational events at FNH By Shak Gobért
1. Jacqui Lavalley and Mary Fox, Traditional Teachers. 2. Learning at First Nations House. 3. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Professor & Author; Susan Blight, FNH Aboriginal Student Life Coordinator; and Glen Coulthard, Assistant Professor, First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program and the Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia. 4. Learning at First Nations House.
very February, First Nations House – in partnership with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives, and many other supporters and collaborators – puts on “Indigenous Education Week.” It’s a week’s worth of interesting and informative events that showcase the contributions of Indigenous knowledge to education. The events take place at First Nations House and all around the greater U of T campus. Those who are interested in the history and teachings of Canada’s Indigenous population will enjoy learning from an array of external guest speakers, lecturers and contributors from all over the province, as well as current U of T faculty members and staff. The 2015 version of IEW was one of its most well-attended and positively received versions yet. Events centred around Indigenous citizenship, poetry creation, information sessions and discussions about the infamous Sixties’ Scoop, and included First Nations music and drum making.Although the week falls over regularly scheduled classes, I was able to make it to two of the workshops that caught my interest. 4 Fall/winter 2015
The first event I attended was a poetry workshop given by guest teacher and storyteller ene Meshake, who is an innovator in the sense that he blends portions of Anishinaabe and English words and thought into stories and poems. During our time in an intimate setting with him at First Nations House, we had the opportunity to hear some of his spoken word performances, and also to read and listen to a variety of his works. He spoke of the transformative and highly interpretive nature of Indigenous poetry and storytelling and expressed his Anishinaabe heritage in a contemporary manner, aligning Anishinaabe teaching and thought back to a more westernized outlook of the world. Seeing these two worlds combined was thought provoking; I was able to see both the differences and similarities between often conflicting cultures. The second event I attended covered the topic of the Sixties’ Scoop. It featured two speakers who had grown up in foster homes after being taken from their homes along with a whole generation of other Indigenous children. I learned that this generation, which grew up in foster care instead of with their own families, was more
Photography: Christine Smith-McFarlane
5. Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, FNH Director, with Mary Fox. 6. Karyn Recollet, Assistant Professor Indigenous Arts, University of Sudbury; Frank Waln, Rapper, Songwriter & Activist. 7. Susan Blight, Karyn Recollet, Frank Waln.
likely to have their children taken into the foster system. This is because the trauma they experienced as a result of the separation and foster care experiences affected them so severely that they were unable to cope well with life. Their trauma was then passed down to their children; this is known as multigenerational trauma. As a result of this tragic legacy, there are more Indigenous children in the foster care system today than ever before. I was very moved by what I heard at this event. My small experiences at Indigenous Education Week, although heavy in some ways, were highly rewarding. I think that’s the essence of Indigenous Education Week; one can engage in deep conversations about the issues we still face, and also enjoy a day filled with culture, laughter, music, dancing, and singing.This is how Indigenous peoples have always coped, and why we are so resilient to this day.To me, this is what being an Indigenous student is about. I see the pain and hardships, but at the same time embrace positive change and a future ahead. Together we can all come to a common space and share, laugh, enjoy ourselves, and learn. I encourage anyone interested
“At Indigenous Education Week, one can engage in deep conversations about the issues we still face, and also enjoy a day filled with culture and laughter. This is how Indigenous peoples have always coped, and why we are so resilient to this day.” in getting to know more about Indigenous peoples – including our culture, language, history, music, art, and more – to check out Indigenous Education Week in 2016. I can promise that there is definitely a lesson or teaching for everyone to take in and cherish. First Nations House Magazine 5
he message Candace Brunette takes from her spirit name,“Morning Light” – which means “Wabun Geezis” in Cree – is “Get up, get up; it’s time to do your work.” She says she approaches her life and work in response to the spirit entity that lives in the east, from where the morning sun rises,“as it calls upon all of creation to do their work.” And she is happily answering that call and busy doing plenty of meaningful work! From Fort Albany First Nation, Candace is of Cree, French and Métis heritage. She completed her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Aboriginal Studies and Equity Studies Programs in 2007 and her Master of Arts (MA) in Adult Education and Community Development in 2010, both at the University of Toronto. While completing her undergraduate degree, she worked full-time at FNH as a recruitment officer, and was also involved in the U of T’s Indigenous Theatre programs, which included collecting Elders’ stories and putting them on stage. Since 2012, Candace has served as Director of Indigenous Services (IS) at Western University in London, Ontario. Her work includes proposal writing to secure funding for programming, supervising IS staff, connecting with and supporting the Indigenous student body, and promoting Indigenous-related strategic commitments within the university. In addition to all of that, she is working on her Doctorate in Education (EdD), raising a four-year-old with her husband, and expecting their second child in March. Candace credits her time at the U of T, particularly the Indigenous support system she found at the U of T’s First Nations House, with inspiring and emboldening her to do the work she is 6 Fall/winter 2015
doing now. “It was a vulnerable period in my life when I was exploring who I was; I was reconciling my identity as an offreserve mixed-blood Native woman and trying to make sense of the history and how it shaped contemporary reality. I was going through so much at that time and First Nations House was such an easy space for me to be who I am,” she says. “I almost get choked up thinking about it. To have that community and to be able to learn from the Elders – everyone had an impact whether they realized it or not.” She feels a responsibility to ensure that kind of space exists at Western for Indigenous students. Currently, she is working on Western’s first-ever Indigenous strategic plan. “It’s one of the most exciting projects I’ve been able to work on in my career so far, because it’s looking at system change to Indigenize the academy from an institutional point of view. We’re looking at student affairs and how to build Indigenous supports throughout the institution rather than just having it in Indigenous Services. It’s about embedding Indigenous knowledge within pedagogy and curriculum and it’s a collaborative process.” The words of Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and econciliation Commission, are a source of encouragement for her. “He says that it’s taken us seven generations to get to this place so it’s going to take us seven generations to get out. And that we don’t single-handedly carry the responsibility, but we can contribute and help influence.” It is in this spirit that Candace Brunette – Wabun Geezis – Morning Light – gets up and does her work. “I relate to the spirit of my name,” she says. “It gives me strength and energy to get things moving.”
Photography: Dave Chidley
Candace Brunette is working to Indigenize the academy By Trina Moyan
J ustice Murray Sinclair says that it’s taken us seven generations to get to this place so it’s going to take us seven generations to get out. And that we don’t singlehandedly carry the responsibility, but we can contribute and help influence.
First Nations House Magazine 7
The Medicine of
Resilience Lisa Boivin’s art illuminates Indigenous power By trina moyan
isa Boivin thinks that mainstream media has only one narrative about Indigenous peoples, and that this needs to be changed. They want trauma,” she says. “But there should be a balance. I want to talk about the effects of colonialism, but also about our beauty, power and resilience.” Lisa is a member of the Deninu K’ue First Nation in the Northwest Territories and a fourth-year Bio-Ethics student at the University of Toronto. Her eyes flash with resolve as she talks about her refusal to be stereotyped. She is committed to changing the negative narrative; in addition to her studies, Lisa regularly lectures on decolonizing Western medicine at the Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, the Faculty of Medicine, and the Aboriginal Studies Program. She also teaches a workshop called “Surviving the Colonized Classroom” at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario and at the University of Manitoba. “I use image-based storytelling to teach about the lingering oppressions of colonialism, but most importantly to illuminate the resilience of Indigenous peoples and cultures,” she says. “I am a ‘60s Scoop survivor. I lost a lot of medicine, and now I have to find new medicine – ‘the medicine of resilience.’” Lisa says that her arts-based methodology confronts the western medical/clinical practice and its racist treatment of Indigenous peoples, and also aligns with some of the Truth and econciliation Commission’s (TC) 94 calls to action, which are meant to counteract the tragic legacy of the Indian esidential School System. One of the TC’s recommendations was that medical and nursing schools in Canada require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools. Lisa is currently developing a cultural safety module that can be used in every medical and nursing school.“When I think of teaching about the clinical/colonial gaze in medicine, 8 Fall/winter 2015
Nuni Â Â
First Nations House Magazine 9
I don’t want to paint Indigenous people as victims, even though we were victimized. Because we are so beautiful and resilient and powerful.
I think of how medical and nursing students have thousands of readings but only a small part of that is about colonialism and racism in the field of medicine,” she says. Image-based storytelling is her preference because she thinks students may not remember an article, but will remember a painting. “My work is about understanding the history and the magnitude of what is going on for Indigenous people. My paintings address the inequities in the current healthcare system.They dismantle the stereotypes that burden Indigenous peoples in western medicine and replace them with cultural teachings that lead to solutions.” As a backdrop for her lectures, Lisa uses her own digital paintings; each piece takes between 100 to 140 hours.They illustrate the damaging residential school experience and the persistent colonial racism that remains in western medicine. She uses them to explain to students how the loss of culture, coupled with genocidal policies, oppression and racism, has left Indigenous people 10 Fall/winter 2015
in a position of vulnerability as they contend with the “colonial gaze” while seeking medical/clinical treatment. “So much was lost in those schools. I can make new medicine and contribute to medical education; that is the only thing I can do.” Lisa’s “new medicine” and the methods she uses to “de-colonize the academy” are symbolized by her own personal logo (this page). It features a painting of Lisa holding a hawk feather in one hand, which represents her commitment to speak clearly and with kindness. In her other hand, she holds a clipboard representing the consent in the patient-doctor relationship, the most sacred ceremony in medicine. “I have the two together because it’s this beautiful but sometimes painful relationship; Indigenous people are often unable to give proper consent and are bombarded by horrible colonial stereotypes – they don’t feel safe,” she says. “When a patient feels safe with their physician, they are more likely to adhere to a clinical plan and honestly discuss symptoms. That’s why cultural safety is so important.” As passionate as Lisa is about her work, she is mindful that she has to do this in a “good and balanced way” – one that does not “paint Indigenous people as victims, even though we were victimized. Because we are so beautiful and resilient and powerful.” To read more about Lisa, visit http://www.facmed.utoronto.ca/ news/faces-u-t-medicine-lisa-boivin.
Photography: erin Howe/University of Toronto
Lisa Boivin with her painting, Sharing Bio-Ethics. Below, her personal logo. Previous page, Nuni. Page 3, Misdiagnosis.
President’s Award Graduate Student Earl Nowgesic
By christine smith-McFarlane
Earl Nowgesic, graduate student winner of the President’s Award for Outstanding Native Student of the Year, thinks the secrets to academic success include being true to yourself, surrounding yourself with people who will support you, and starting social supports in high school if you are interested in going onto higher education. “I’m grateful to the study participants of my dissertation who shared their heartfelt stories with me. I am grateful for the support I received from a number of Indigenous Elders and community partners who ensured a comprehensive and coordinated approach was taken with the study of my doctoral program.” When Earl arrived at the University of Toronto in the 1990s to do his Master’s in Health Science, he found support at the then-brand-new First Nations House. “Having social supports in an Aboriginal context was helpful,” he says. “Because in my program I was the only Aboriginal student that I knew of.” An Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and member of the Kiashke Zaaging Anishinabek (Gull Bay First Nation), Earl successfully defended his Doctor of Philosophy dissertation in Public Health Science at the University of Toronto (specializing in Social and Behavioural Health Sciences) in March 2015. Earl also holds a Master of Health Science in Community Health and Epidemiology from the University of Toronto (1994), among several other health degrees and certificates. In April 2015, just prior to completing his PhD program, he started working as the Interim Associate Director of the new Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health based in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, and at the same time was appointed assistant professor in the Division of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences within the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. He says he became interested in health at a very young age when he noticed that a lot of people in his immediate family and his community were living with less than optimal health. He decided to commit himself to Aboriginal health care in order to help improve this situation.
Photography: stefanie neves
“Having social supports in an Aboriginal context [at FNH] was helpful, because in my program I was the only Aboriginal student that I knew of.”
Earl has held many national leadership positions in Canada in the area of Aboriginal health over the years, including at the First Nations Centre of the National Aboriginal Health Organization, the Canadian Institutes of Health esearch-Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health, and the Assembly of First Nations’ Health Secretariat. During his tenure at the AFN, he led the first-ever First Nationcommissioned national evaluation of a federal health initiative. He has also worked for the Canadian federal government in a number of positions including as the National HIV/AIDS Program Specialist-First Nations and Inuit. During this post, while Health Canada’s National AIDS Strategy-Phase II was coming to a close, Earl developed a successful plan that resulted in federal funding of $2.5 million to address HIV/AIDS among First Nations and Inuit in Canada. Earl was honoured by Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network with the distinction of La Verne Monette Scholar in 2013 and has participated in many national and international committees on Aboriginal health. He is happy to be fulfilling his boyhood dream to help improve Aboriginal health care in Canada. First Nations House Magazine 11
OIME program coordinator Rochelle Allan, first-year medical student Curtis Sobchak, and Dr. Lisa Richardson. 12 Fall/winter 2015
The OIME is working towards the vision of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission By Christine Smith McFarlane
he Office of Indigenous Medical Education provides a culturally safe space in the Undergraduate Medical Education (UME) program while working to advance Indigenous community engagement and supports, as well as to incorporate Indigenous teachings into medical education for all students. Dr. Lisa ichardson, one of two Indigenous physicians who serve as Co-Leads in Indigenous Health Education for the UME Program, is pleased to be a part of this important work. “Education opens doors to wonderful and fulfilling careers that allow Indigenous youth to give back to their communities and to improve not just their own lives, but the lives of others,” she says. “Educated youth can work in stimulating jobs while simultaneously advocating for change, helping out others and making a good living.” Co-Leads Dr. Richardson and Dr. Jason Pennington both studied medicine at the University of Toronto, and were instrumental in the development of the Office of Indigenous Medical Education. They have been working for years to bring Indigenous concepts of health and healing into the faculty. They also work to improve Indigenous peoples’ experience with health care providers. “For the non-Aboriginal students in the medical school, we want to provide them with knowledge and tools to practise in a culturally safe way so that Aboriginal patients do not feel isolated, judged or stereotyped when they enter medical institutions,” says Dr. ichardson. “This means changing and increasing Indigenous representation in the curriculum as well helping faculty to increase their understanding.” The Office of Indigenous Medical Education opened its doors in 2014, one year before the Truth and econciliation Commission (TC) of Canada’s Summary eport was released. The report’s 94 Calls to Action “to redress the legacy of residential First Nations House Magazine 13
The Office of Indigenous Medical Education will continue to take steps toward change in the health care system with the knowledge that the road to reconciliation is a long one. Our goal is to continue working together to bring Indigenous perspectives forward so that we can come a little closer to the vision that the TRC has for our future.
Top: Dr. Lisa Richardson. Right: (L-R) ISAP graduates Wynona Gagnon, Arlana Bickell, Tyeshia Powell and Kyesha Fong dissecting a cow eye.
Program (ISAP), which saw its first graduates in 2015. The Office has also been working alongside the Office of Health Professions Student Affairs to increase the number of Indigenous students participating in the Summer Mentorship Program, which brings high school students from underrepresented groups on to campus for the month of July.The students are introduced to various health professions, are mentored by students and health care professionals, and are provided with skills and training to help them reach their goals. Another initiative has been to partner with the Medical Alumni 14 Fall/winter 2015
Association to host the Dr. Marguerite (Peggy) Hill Lecture on Indigenous Health.This annual lecture highlights Indigenous health issues and speakers. This year’s lecture focused on reconciliation. “We are well aware that the road to reconciliation is a long one,” said Dr. ichardson. “The Office of Indigenous Medical Education will continue to take steps toward change in the health care system with that knowledge. Our goal is to continue working together to bring Indigenous perspectives forward so that we can come a little closer to the vision that the TC has for our future.”
Photography: Ethan Horst Mitchell (top and previous page); Smp (left)
schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation” include calls to support and advance the education of Indigenous people. “The TC report has helped crystallize the importance of what we are doing here in the Office of Indigenous Medical Education and Undergraduate Medical Education,” says Indigenous Peoples’ UME Program Coordinator ochelle Allan. “We are working to support Indigenous medical students, increase Indigenous representation in the UME, advance Indigenous community engagement, and incorporate more Indigenous content in the UME’s curriculum.” The TC eport also calls for “collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.” To help students understand this collaboration, Elder Cat Criger hosts lunch and learn sessions at the OIME to discuss a variety of topics. The Office of Indigenous Medical Education hopes to recruit and support many more Indigenous medical students through various initiatives including the Indigenous Student Application
President’s Award Undergraduate Student Curtis Sobchak
By christine smith-McFarlane
sked to give advice to other Indigenous students, Curtis Sobchack, undergraduate student winner of the President’s Award for Outstanding Native Student of the Year, says he thinks following the direction that makes you happy and keeps you curious is the main thing. “This is of the utmost importance when choosing a field and will help to keep you motivated in your studies and work. And it’s also important to find a good support group or community that will help you to persevere and to set, work towards, and reach your goals.” A Six Nations member of the Upper Mohawk Territory, Curtis graduated from the University of Toronto in 2014 with a BA in Physiology and Global Health. He is now in his first year of Medical School at the University of Toronto. “Halfway through my undergraduate studies, I realized how much more there was to learn within a specific field,” he says. “I felt that I was only scratching the surfaces of the fields I was interested in.” He wanted to learn, not just more, but more in-depth. He also wanted to contribute. At first that thought was daunting, and he began to question himself. However, his efforts eventually became challenging and even fun, and his questions are being answered by further education. Curtis considers himself fortunate to have had relatively few obstacles with respect to pursuing an academic career. He feels that the main ones were, first, leaving his family and a smaller town (St. Catherines) and second, getting adapted to a very big city. He faced a lot of pressure from some family members to stay home for traditional and financial reasons. Although he understood their concerns, he had a strong desire to pursue Life Sciences at the University of Toronto, and he believed that staying home would “cap his curiosity.” Then, once in Toronto, he was overwhelmed at first. He says he managed to overcome this by volunteering at the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, where he helped
participate in culture nights and GED tutoring. “The people I met and got to work with taught me values that I could never learn in the classroom, and I am very thankful for those experiences.” Another thing that helped Curtis gain confidence was the opportunity to participate in research at the Hospital for Sick Children. “esearch is difficult, timeconsuming and tedious, but I learned a lot about myself and what drives me.” He learned that moving into an unknown situation, interacting with different people, and learning many new skills builds confidence. He feels this confidence translated into all his other undergraduate activities and has greatly contributed to his success so far. Curtis plans to continue with medical school and transition into a speciality that interests and motivates him. He would love to stay in Toronto and work as both a physician and a member of the urban Indigenous community. He also has the desire to get more involved in research regarding First Nations and health issues within our community. “There needs to be more research regarding the health disparities of First Nations populations and how institutional racism is furthering these disparities,” he says. “So this is something I plan to pursue.” To this end, he would like to obtain a Master’s Degree in Public Health and become a clinician scientist with a focus on these areas. From there, he hopes to become a strong voice for the First Nation community. “If I can become a good role model and a good physician, then I will be satisfied.” Lastly, as a First Nations scholar, Curtis wants to see more First Nations students get involved in medicine. “There is so much Western medicine can learn from First Nations and Indigenous health practices, and I believe that future collaborations between these two depend on us.”
Photography: Ethan Horst Mitchell
“If I can become a good role model and a good physician, then I will be satisfied.”
First Nations House Magazine 15
to Becoming a PhD From Churchill, Manitoba to Toronto, Ontario
was born in a village near Churchill, Manitoba in 1963. Growing up as a Cree child in the Sixties dealt me a mixed hand of good and bad. Although my life was dotted with the comings and goings of my siblings to residential school, I was fortunate to be raised at home by parents who spoke Cree and taught me to be respectful, kind and creative. I was their 16th and last child, so I got the best of their parental experience and knowledge. However, I also got the worst of the implosion that happens to parents faced with Canada’s implementation of emoval, Assimilation Policy and Education. I was very happy to be accepted at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education / Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education (OISE). It was an easy decision to pursue a doctorate in Adult Education & Community Development, as I had already been teaching for nine years in post-secondary education with Aboriginal learners – in the Aboriginal Counselling Program, a four-year degree program at Brandon University, where I’d earned my BA in Native Studies and B.Ed and M.Ed. in Guidance & Counselling. From all of these years spent questioning, challenging and attempting to integrate the Western counselling theories and our own ways of healing and helping practices, I had learned a great 16 Fall/winter 2015
By Brenda Wastasecoot
deal. These were two very different approaches coming from two very different world views – so different that it posed many problems almost on a daily basis. Although my heart was deeply vested in seeing the success of students in the Aboriginal Counselling Program, I knew it was slowly phasing out to be replaced by something else. This feeling was my signal to move on, so that’s what I did. I sold my house, had a huge yard sale, and with my 13-year-old daughter drove from Brandon, Manitoba to Toronto, Ontario. At first, Toronto was very big, loud and fast. I learned I could get around easier without my car, so I got rid of that too.Walking was much faster and it didn’t come with parking tickets. The public transit was easy to use, and people were people, like anywhere else. After living on the prairies for so long, I really enjoyed hearing all the different languages being spoken around me. At OISE, I immediately became familiar with the tower of knowledge and made friends with professors and fellow students. At first, I did not see many Native students, except one woman. She stepped into the elevator with me one day and we acknowledged each other with smiles. While I enjoyed my courses at OISE, I found choosing my thesis overwhelming. I wanted to look at everything that had to do with counselling, healing, helping, educating, learning, and on it went in my head. I started doodling in class – not very
professional, I admit, but other students would comment on my trees, so I just kept doodling out my ideas and my feelings, and my research questions emerged from the pages. Finding a research focus is not easy; it requires a surveying of what’s already been done, a lot of reading of past theses and published works. I would
research method called Memory Mapping. I am passionate about this method, and have even been invited to speak in universities and schools about its culturally friendly applications. I’ve taken it as far away as Uni-Gratz in Gratz, Austria and as nearby as the Finding My Way and Community Health Worker programs offered at Anishnawbe Health Toronto on Gerard Street in downtown Toronto. I never tire of telling my own stories to inform and enlighten those who come to hear about my experiences growing up. I feel this is an exciting way to hear about other peoples and to allow them to connect with each other across vast histories and cultural knowledge. I hope to graduate in the spring of 2016. Although there have been many challenges to becoming a PhD and writing my dissertation, it has also been a very rewarding journey. There are so many people who have been generous with their time, including the Elders and staff at First Nation House and the Professors at OISE. I found that I could always rely on them for emotional support as well. Most rewarding has been the growth that has happened in my life; I feel the spiritual aspect of writing has helped me to stay connected with my parents in the spirit world. I still struggle to this day to make these connections with my own family. It is an ongoing and lifelong journey – like learning itself.
Photography: stefanie neves
“So many people were generous with their time, including the Elders and staff at First Nations House and the Professors at OISE. I found that I could always rely on them for emotional support as well.” recommend that students considering a PhD start on this process as soon as possible. Looking back on this stage of pre-writing, I really wish I had approached some of the organizations in the Aboriginal community here in Toronto and asked them about what needs to be researched from their lived realities as service providers. I wish I had collaborated with one of these agencies, as I see the benefits of being recognized and supported by existing services on the ground or grassroots. Instead, I struck out on my own, and found an arts-based
First Nations House Magazine 17
Indigenous Educational Events Book launches and a workshop
Indigenous Book Launch
Photography: Christine Smith-McFarlane (TOP and right; Trina Moyan (left).
Author Lee Maracle launched her new book, Memory Serves and other Oratories, alongside Lenore Keeshig, who launched her new book, Running on the March Wind, in Toronto on November 26, 2015. Lee’s latest book, a collection of her poems entitled Talking to the Diaspora, was named one of the “Best Books in 2015” by CBC.
The launch of this educator resource about Indian residential schools, developed by the educational organization Facing History and Ourselves (FHO) in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to educate all Canadians about the history of Indian Residential Schools. Playwright Drew Hayden Taylor (L), read excerpts from God and the Indian, his play about the impacts of residential schools. Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett (centre), spoke at the event, as did Leora Schafer, FHO’s Toronto-office Director (R). Resource available at www.facinghistory.org.
18 Fall/winter 2015
Corn Husk Doll Workshop In an experiential workshop at First Nations House, learning strategist Bonnie Jane Maracle taught students and staff how to make traditional corn husk dolls.
Photography: stefanie neves (TOP)
Angela Mashford-Pringle shares her educational journey
y parents ensured that I knew education was the key to a better future, and instilled a love of learning in me at a very early age. My mother (an Algonquin woman from Timiskaming First Nation) and my father (an Englishman) never graduated from high school. Even though we lived in southern Ontario, they took me for trips across different parts of Canada so I could learn about this great country and my Indigeneity. I went on to obtain an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology, then worked for several years with Health Canada. There, I saw the need for Indigenous voices in policy, politics, education and health, and decided to return to school and obtain my Master’s degree so I could make contributions to the health and education of urban Aboriginal people. However, I was turned down a few times because the entrance requirements were higher than what I had achieved. Undaunted, I found two professors to complete senior undergraduate theses with (it took a year), then reapplied to graduate schools and was accepted to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) in the fall of 2006. I was still working full-time, and by then had two children and a husband, but I was determined. Managing my schedule was challenging, but my professors were understanding and allowed me to bring my children to a few of my classes. Deciding on my thesis was difficult; I had so many research ideas that I couldn’t narrow them down at first. I finally decided to look at work I had done in the federal government evaluating the Aboriginal Head Start Urban and Northern Communities program in Sault Ste Marie. I found an Aboriginal supervisor for my thesis: Dr. Jean-Paul Restoule. He worked with me to develop the project and get research ethics approval, and taught me how to write for the academy. When I finished that, with Dr. estoule’s encouragement, I kept going! I went on to pursue doctoral studies at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the U of T -- and eventually to lecture in the Aboriginal Studies Program. At first, I was so nervous on the
days that I was teaching. I kept thinking that students wouldn’t want to hear me speak; who the heck did I think I was standing in front of the lecture hall? As we moved into October, however, I began to feel more comfortable as a teacher. I was fortunate to be assigned to the SAGE (Student Enhancement for Aboriginal Graduate Students) program. I worked with our program coordinators, who provided workshops, meetings, and connected the very small group of Aboriginal graduate students to many diverse learning experiences across U of T campuses. We hosted feasts at the Mississauga and downtown campuses, and reached out to many different faculties to encourage Aboriginal graduate students to join the group and enhance their learning experience at the U of T. SAGE has continued to grow, which means there are growing numbers of Aboriginal graduate students at the U of T! After I completed my PhD in Aboriginal Health and Public Health in the spring of 2013, I continued to lecture for Aboriginal Studies. There, I met a special student named Cynthia Bird. She asked one day in class if anything positive was happening in Aboriginal health in Canada, and if not, why not. I had thought about this a lot. My response was that things move very slowly, and that politics was the answer to speeding things up. She said something that has stayed with me since. “Instead of teaching us about the negative things, why don’t you teach us how to change things?” After that semester, I began providing assignments that I believed (and still believe) would assist Aboriginal Studies students with increasing the general population’s knowledge of Aboriginal people and our issues. I was deeply saddened to hear of Cynthia’s illness and her passing. Her questions impacted the way I teach, and she was an inspiration to me and many students who wish to see Aboriginal issues move toward equity. I am honoured that I have had such blessed interactions with students like Cynthia, and with faculty and staff at the University of Toronto as we learn how to “Indigenize the world.” This page is dedicated to the memory of Cynthia Bird, who passed away in 2014. “Graduate together” is a phrase she often used to encourage other students.
First Nations House Magazine 19
Never Again appears courtesy of Plains Cree artist George Littlechild, ÂŠ Copyright, www.georgelittlechild.com. This mixed-media artwork features the artistâ€™s mother, Rachel Littlechild, who attended residential school.
This issue explores the role of education in reconciliation and relationship building.