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Reflections in the circle

Defining and showcasing intersectionality in an individual’s life

Teaching and Learning

By Jennifer Shea

This past June I taught the Inuit bachelor of education (IBED) students the course Sociology 2100: Social Inequality.

As part of the course requirements, the students completed a reflection assignment drawing on course material and linking to an experienced or observed social inequality. The medium in how the reflection would be presented was left up to the students.

All assignments were shared with the class in a sharing circle.

The class’s sharing circle at the Labrador Institute in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Photo: Submitted

Sharing circles are sacred places that honour the traditional art of storytelling in Indigenous culture and provide a safe space to share. As the students began to share their stories, I was truly amazed by the amount of reflection and introspection that went into their assignments.

Assignments have been categorized into four themes, which can be found after the photo essay below.

1/ Jodi Lyall

Jodi Lyall of Happy Valley-Goose Bay created a graffiti board to visually represent the inequality experienced throughout her life. She touched on labelling theory, life chances, inter-generational trauma, education, work and the spoke honestly about the impact of stereotypes in her own life. One example included being screened out for a job in her community because of the past actions of a family member.

Photo: Submitted

2/ Roxanne Nochasak

Roxanne Nochasak of Makkovik was inspired by the class's discussions of food security in the North and created a drawing outlining the often impossible position residents of the North face in providing for their families.

Photo: Submitted

3/ Doris Boase

Doris Boase of Hopedale spoke about her life growing up in poverty, experiences of inter-generational trauma and how childhood can shape an individual. She shared her story through a slide show with personal photos and  focused on  resilience and the ability to overcome adversity.

Photo: Submitted

4/ Marina Andersen

Marina Andersen of Makkovik focused on the media and used the #usetherightwords as an example in her presentation. One powerful example shared was the coverage of the Tina Fontaine trial, despite being a 15-year-old murder victim, her behaviour was an issue.

Photo: Submitted

5/ Jennifer Rose-Campbell

Jennifer Rose-Campbell of North West River spoke about the internal and external pressures and judgment faced by mothers. This pressure is most evident in relation to breast feeding. She captured a mother breast feeding her baby through a painting on birch.

Photo: Submitted

Stereotypes and categorization

Nancy Gear of Happy Valley-Goose Bay chose to speak about inequalities experienced based on a person’s weight/appearance through poetry.

As eloquently described by Ms. Gear, an individual’s weight can be viewed by others as the source of any issue the person experiences.

Frank Russell of Happy Valley-Goose Bay showed the class a video of a Galton board (a vertical board with inter-leaved rows of pins that sorts objects similar to a plinko game) as it sorted different color beads.

Using this visual example, he then spoke of the categorization of individuals based on sameness such as religion, class, sex and so on.

Tracey Doherty of Happy Valley-Goose Bay wrote a descriptive short story drawing on the inequities faced by Indigenous Peoples in Canada. She drew on inequities she witnessed first-hand working in the criminal justice system, as well as the over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in prisons, abuse and the devaluing of Indigenous culture.

Strength, resilience and voice

Felicia Edmunds of Churchill Falls shared a story about employment inequality through a story about her father, who was continuously overlooked for a job in his community that he was qualified to fill. Ms. Edmunds recorded her father reading the letter/poem that he wrote to the company and government and played it for the class.


Cathy Mitsuk of Hopedale decided to focus on the media and how it perpetuates social injustice. She gave everyone in the class a news story title and a fact to read aloud.

Honouring culture

Julie Flowers-Sheppard of Rigolet shared photos of the seal hunt she recently completed with her father and spoke of the importance of land to culture.

She then spoke about her worries about Muskrat Falls and what the project will do to culture, food and the land going forward. She wondered if the land and food supply are disrupted, will the cultural tradition of hunting and spending time on the land be able to be passed on to younger generations?

Finally, Cheryl Allen of Rigolet spoke of the importance of honouring culture and Indigenous knowledge. She shared an example of language teachers not being viewed the same or valued as much as university teachers. Teachers of the Inuktitut language are not often university-trained in classroom instruction, yet they provide an invaluable service of passing on traditional language to future generations.

From left are Jodi Lyall, Doris Boase, Marina Andersen, Tracey Doherty, Julie Flowers-Sheppard, Roxanne Nochasak, Nancy Gear, Felicia Edmunds, Dr. Jennifer Shea, Frank Russell, Jennifer-Rose Campbell, Cheryl Allen and Cathy Mitsuk.
Photo: Submitted

Empathy and compassion

While unplanned, the students collectively covered the majority of topics discussed in class.

In many cases they effectively defined and showcased intersectionality and how this can play out in an individual’s life. What stands out about these students is their empathy and compassion, not only to each other, but to the larger community.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from these amazing students.

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