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A decade of milestones

Increasing Indigenous engagement, connections and representation

By Jeff Green

From a special task force on Aboriginal student success to Indigenous community consultations at the core of Memorial’s first-ever Indigenization strategy – the two stories bookend a decade moving towards Indigenization and truth and reconciliation at our university.

Over the past 10 years, Memorial has made significant progress in appropriately recognizing its relationships with Indigenous communities while also increasing capacity for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Among recent examples are the launch of a Visiting Aboriginal Elders Project and the success of the Labrador Research Forum earlier this year.

As we start a new year, Memorial is preparing to share a new comprehensive framework for Indigenization for Newfoundland and Labrador’s only university.

Read select stories from our news archive highlighting Indigenization milestones at Memorial below.

Memorial task force delivers recommendations on Aboriginal student success

Dr. Chris Loomis, left, received the report on aboriginal initiatives from Task Force Chair Dr. Evan Simpson.
From left, Dr. Chris Loomis, receives the report on Aboriginal initiatives from task force chair, Dr. Evan Simpson.
Photo: Chris Hammond

A special task force released a report in late 2009 looking at ways to enhance the recruitment and success of Aboriginal students.

Chaired by former Vice-President (Academic) Dr. Evan Simpson, the task force produced a report with 22 recommendations that fell into four categories: encouraging completion of high school by Aboriginal peoples; success at university through on-campus support; appropriate educational programming; and co-ordination of Memorial’s existing aboriginal expertise.

Read A Special Obligation: Report of the Presidential Task Force on Aboriginal Initiatives here.

Language researcher receives prestigious national award

From left are Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie and Kanani Penashue Davis.
From left are Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie and Kanani Penashue Davis.
Photo: Submitted

In October 2013 Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie was awarded a prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Impact Award for achievements in research, research training, knowledge mobilization and outreach activities. Dr. MacKenzie — who is now professor emeritus of linguistics — and her team were awarded the $50,000 Insight Award.

Dr. MacKenzie has worked for more than 40 years in capacity-building in Cree, Innu and Naskapi communities. Her research project, Knowledge and Human Resources for Innu Language Development, carried out in collaboration with researchers at Memorial, Carleton University, the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Institut Tshakapesh and Mamu Tshishkutamashutau, private scholars and government departments, led to the creation of dictionaries, workplace vocabularies and readers for schools and language-learning materials for adults.

In December 2019 an Innu-aimun project directed by Dr. MacKenzie received a President’s Award for public engagement.

‘Circle of conversation’

Dr. Tom Gordon, President Sarah Leo, Nunatsiavut Government, and Dr. Gary Kachanoski.
From left are Dr. Tom Gordon, President Sarah Leo, Nunatsiavut Government, and Dr. Gary Kachanoski.
Photo: Chris Hammond

The Nunatsiavut Government and Memorial announced in October 2015 it was collaborating on a $7.4-million project to lead a five-year research initiative to merge collaborative academic research with traditional knowledge for the protection, preservation and revitalization of Labrador Inuit culture and language.

The project, Tradition and Transition Among the Labrador Inuit, received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council partnership grant valued at $2.3 million; investments of $1.6 million from the Nunatsiavut Government and $1.38 million from Memorial University; and $2.12 million in combined contributions from 20 partner organizations.

The initiative brings together more than 30 Inuit tradition-bearers and academic researchers across Canada and the U.S. to examine and explore factors that are critical to the sustainability and revitalization of the Inuit culture and way of life.

Strengthening connections

From left are Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research) and Dr. Max Liboiron.
From left are Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research) and Dr. Max Liboiron.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Through an initiative of the Office of the Vice-President (Research), and with a goal of strengthening respective engagement in Indigenous research, Memorial announced the appointment of Dr. Max Liboiron as associate vice-president (Indigenous research) in September 2018.

Under Dr. Liboiron’s leadership, Memorial is establishing innovative infrastructures to ensure ethical and collaborative processes, such as a policy on community consent in Indigenous research; financial measures to more easily pay elders and Indigenous Peoples in the North; and data sovereignty agreements.

A well-respected researcher, Dr. Liboiron is playing a vital role in helping identify areas for partnership and opportunities to enhance Memorial’s approach to working with Indigenous communities on research.

Indigenization is Indigenous

In a special – and widely read– op-ed published in early 2019, Indigenous students, faculty and staff at Memorial shared what is, and isn’t, Indigenization.“Indigenization means change led by Indigenous people to bring Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing into spaces that are not designed for those ways,” they said. “There is a place for settlers in this.”

Engagement report released

Catharyn Andersen
Catharyn Andersen
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Memorial’s framework for Indigenization began with one of the most robust consultations of its kind in Canadian higher education history.

In November 2019 Memorial released a summary report on 26 consultations that took place with members of Indigenous communities across Newfoundland and Labrador from August 2018-August 2019. The report, Summary of Indigenous Community Engagements, is available online.

The purpose of the consultations was to gain thoughts and perspectives about past, current and potential engagements between Indigenous communities and Memorial University to guide the development of Memorial’s Indigenization Strategy. Leading the development of the strategy is Catharyn Andersen, special advisor to the president on Aboriginal affairs.

For more stories about Indigenization at Memorial, check out the Gazette special feature that ran from Feb. 4-15, 2019.

This story is part of Defining a Decade, a new feature in the Gazette for the winter 2020 semester. Stay tuned for stories on Tuesdays and Thursdays about the accomplishments, achievements and impacts that defined Memorial’s last 10 years. The full list of stories published to-date is available here

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