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‘Data are not neutral’

Global leader in Indigenous research visiting Memorial this month

Campus and Community

By Jeff Green

A leading international Indigenous expert is “keenly” interested in learning how Memorial engages with Indigenous communities.

Dr. Maggie Walter, distinguished professor of sociology and inaugural pro vice-chancellor, Aboriginal research and leadership, at the University of Tasmania, will be at Memorial in early February for nearly a week.

Dr. Maggie Walter
Dr. Maggie Walter
Photo: Submitted

She will meet with faculty, staff and students, share some of her expertise and deliver a special lecture.

“I am coming to Memorial at the invitation of Dr. Rochelle Côté, who I know through our sociological work and our involvement in various international conferences,” Dr. Walter said in an interview with the Gazette.

“I have never been to this part of Canada before and am greatly looking forward to my visit and working with people at Memorial and making new contact.”

Globally recognized for research centred on race relations, inequality, research methods and methodologies, Dr. Walter is the author of several books including Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Research Methodology.

“I am hoping to take some learnings . . . back to the University of Tasmania where we are putting in place an ambitious plan to Indigenize the curriculum.” — Dr. Maggie Walter

She is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and a recipient of a 2018 Fulbright Indigenous Scholarship.

Dr. Walter told the Gazette she will be looking at how Memorial engages with its Indigenous communities and engages with Indigenous knowledges in curriculum, especially in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recommendations.

“I am hoping to take some learnings from Memorial back to the University of Tasmania where we are putting in place an ambitious plan to Indigenize the curriculum,” she said.

Special lecture

During her visit, Dr. Walter is delivering a talk titled Indigenous Data Sovereignty in the Age of Big Data as part of the Department of Sociology’s Speaker Series.

“This is a globally strong and vibrant science, area of scholarship and field of activism, which has strong resonance in Canada and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, as well as those Indigenous Peoples from other colonized nation states,” Dr. Walter explained.

She says there is at least one key message she would like people to take away from her discussion.

“That data are not neutral and that Indigenous data in places such as Canada and Australia have operated to disempower Indigenous Peoples through both the setting up a narrative of Indigenous deficit and in their narrow focus failing to provide Indigenous Peoples with the data we need for governance and to meet our nation building aspirations.”

Dr. Walter’s lecture takes place on Monday, Feb. 10, at 2:30 p.m. in C-4036 in the Chemistry-Physics building on the St. John’s campus. Everyone is invited to attend. A reception will follow in SN-4022, in the Science building.

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