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No holding back

HSS alumna named Labrador Institute’s International Indigenous Intern

Part of a special feature showcasing Memorial's leadership and expertise in cold ocean and Arctic science, technology and society (COASTS).

By Mandy Cook

Jennelle Doyle will represent NunatuKavut, the Labrador Institute (LI) and Labrador as the institute’s International Indigenous Intern this winter.

Ms. Doyle, who graduated with a bachelor of arts degree — double major in history and French, with a specialization in Aboriginal history — this past spring, says she never dreamed she would be lucky enough to be a part of something “so extraordinary.”

“I remember seeing the email and getting butterflies in my stomach,” she said about receiving the good news. “I was shaking and, of course, I called my mother right away!”

Live and work abroad

Hailing from Churchill Falls, Labrador, Ms. Doyle’s ancestry is Inuit (but is considered Southern Inuit, formerly known as Labrador Métis) and therefore was eligible for the internship program, now in its second year. Matthew Pike, also an alumnus of Memorial’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), was the inaugural LI International Indigenous Intern last year.

The internship will give Ms. Doyle the opportunity to live and work abroad while gaining a perspective on Indigenous cultures in Norway and Finland, which she will then share throughout Labrador schools, as well as a university class, upon her return home.

“The program is meant to bring new awareness of Indigenous and northern affairs and culture to young people in Labrador, with the hope of generating enthusiasm among Aboriginal students about continuing with or pursuing higher education,” said Karen Pottle-Fewer, program co-ordinator, Labrador Institute.

“The Labrador Institute is pleased to once again be sponsoring the International Indigenous Internship program,” said Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, director, Labrador Institute. “This is a wonderful and unique opportunity for cross-cultural learning and North-to-North partnerships.”

Those partnerships will take shape in the form of a two-month stint starting in January in Rovaniemi, Finland, with the University of the Arctic (UArctic) located at the University of Lapland, and another two months in Tromsø, Norway, with the Arctic Council Indigenous People’s Secretariat. She will be assigned a project — she doesn’t know exactly what yet — but says it could focus on a number of topics: environmental protection, cultural heritage, governance, social justice, health and well-being, education or language retention.

Information exchange

Ms. Doyle says she wants to know if Indigenous Peoples in the circumpolar North face similar challenges to the Aboriginal people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada, or whether they face different ones.

She also aims to find out what other northern regions have put in place in order to address or improve existing issues and whether or not any of their policies or proposed courses of action would benefit her home province.

“If youth feel there is a way to become educated in the Western world and still hold onto their beliefs and culture . . . there will be more representation.” — Jennelle Doyle

Travelling to and spending time in Norway and Finland also allows for Indigenous people in Canada to “become known,” she says.

“People have heard about different groups, some people associate them with negative things politically,” she said. “In my opinion, the best way to break those assumptions is to show people who we are and what we stand for and to educate them on our respective cultures. We need to be represented on an international level and continue practising agency.”

Jennelle Doyle
Jennelle Doyle says international travel allows for Indigenous people “to become known.”
Photo: Mike Ritter

Practising agency is something Ms. Doyle very much wishes to instill in Indigenous youth, particularly in Labrador.

As the Labrador Institute International Indigenous Intern, Ms. Doyle says she will have the opportunity to encourage young people to “not hold back,” ie. pursue post-secondary education.

“It’s scary to move away from home, which is the only option to continue education in the North,” she said.

“But, if youth feel there is a way to become educated in the Western world and still hold onto their beliefs and culture . . . there will be more representation in these schools and more of an opportunity to make changes and provide an Indigenous perspective in the scholarly world. For example, providing more Aboriginal-based courses — and who better to teach courses about Aboriginal people than somebody who is actually Aboriginal.”

‘Master key’

When asked what the greatest benefit of the internship is, she says she “can’t even begin” to narrow it down.

She’s got a strong gut feeling that it’s about to change her life, though.

“I think this opportunity will provide the biggest benefit for my future. This experience is the master key to unlocking my potential in furthering my education with Aboriginal rights at the centre of my focus.”

The Labrador Institute is appreciative of its partners, funders and hosts for this years’ internship: the International Grenfell Association; NunatuKavut; The Indigenous People’s Secretariat in Tromso, Norway; and Lapland University, member, University of the Arctic, in Rovaniemi, Finland.

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