The U of A celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

All year round the University of Alberta community celebrates the unique heritage and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

June is National Indigenous History Month, with National Indigenous Peoples Day held on June 21. Here is how the university is marking the day as we highlight some of the university’s exceptional Indigenous scholars:

Highlighting some of the U of A’s many outstanding Indigenous scholars:

Kokum Hazel McKennitt (Kokum is ‘grandmother’ in Cree) is part of the Indigenous Health Initiatives Program at the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and an elder-in-residence. She is also a 10-year residential school survivor, former teacher and Indigenous women’s health advocate. Kokum Hazel can discuss the efforts to advance Indigenous health and remove health inequities First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples face. 

Associate professor of secondary education, Sean Lessard, designs school experiences that enhance the lives of Indigenous youth through physical activity and mentorship. Lessard is a former youth worker and high school guidance counselor who works with Indigenous youth across Canada, including those on Enoch Cree Nation. He is co-director of a research project in Montreal Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan called mitho waskayawin, which translates to ‘Moving Well’. The research aims to address systemic racism in physical activities and organized sports.

Beaver Hills Cree education professor Dwayne Donald will work with Canadian teachers in four different communities to better understand how to “unlearn colonialism” and be guided by Indigenous wisdom in the classroom. Donald was recently appointed Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Reimagining Teacher Education with Indigenous Wisdom Traditions. While mandatory Indigenous courses are common in teacher education programs across Canada, they still mostly focus on information about Indigenous peoples and their experiences. In his role as CRC, Donald will support the development of innovative teaching and learning practices that are inspired by learning from local Indigenous wisdom teachings. 

Crystal Fraser is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Native Studies and the Department of History, Classics, & Religion. She is originally from the Northwest Territories and is Gwichyà Gwich’in (Gwich’in are one of the most northerly Indigenous peoples in North America). An intergenerational Indian Residential School survivor, Fraser’s research focuses primarily on the histories and effects of the residential school system in Canada. She is part of the Governing Circle guiding the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; the group’s role is, in part, to ensure Indigenous Peoples are in control of archival materials related to residential schools.

Tanya Harnett, a member of the Carry-The-Kettle First Nations in Saskatchewan and a university professor jointly appointed in the Department of Art and Design and the Faculty of Native Studies, curated the permanent Residential School exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum. Harnett, who has three generations of family members that attended residential schools — including her mother who was sent to Brandon Residential School at the age of four — took seven years to create the exhibit.


National Indigenous Peoples Day event in Camrose

The Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta will hold a special event with former U of A Writer in Residence, Richard Van Camp. The event will feature storytelling and readings while providing a space to engage in Reconciliation. 

Date: June 21 at 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. 

The general public can attend virtually. Tickets are required for the free digital presentation. More information is available here.

University of Alberta Indigenous Strategic Plan launch

The U of A is set to launch Braiding Past, Present and Future: University of Alberta Indigenous Strategic Plan (ISP). The plan is the result of wide-ranging conversations to envision ways to carry out institutional commitments to the TRC Calls to Action and Indigenous Initiatives more broadly. The ISP aims to build better relationships with Indigenous communities — equitable, respectful and mutual — by remediating past practices, bridging the curriculum gap, breaking down barriers for Indigenous students, faculty and staff, and imagining innovative practices in ethical research, fundraising and alumni engagement, among others. 

The development of the ISP was led by Dr. Florence Glanfield (Métis), who serves in the inaugural role of Vice-Provost, Indigenous Programming and Research with the support of the Indigenous Advisory Council, a council comprised of 22 First Nations, Inuit and Métis employees from across the U of A. The Indigenous-led plan was created in broad dialogue with faculties, units, individuals, and communities.

Date: June 24 at 10 a.m.

The general public and campus community is invited to attend the livestream of the launch.

Dr. Florence Glanfield is available to speak with the media about the Indigenous Strategic Plan.