June 18th, 2024

U of L showcases the work of Indigenous graduates


By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 8, 2023.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke An "Oki" sign frames indigenous grad students as they speak during Indigenous Awareness Week about the importance of pursuing higher education and the impact it has on Indigenous culture and history for future generations, Tuesday at the University of Lethbridge.

The University of Lethbridge is keeping the ball rolling with educational opportunities to learn about the Indigenous communities in southern Alberta.

On Day Two, the university hosted Indigenous grad students showcasing their work and talking to audience members about their first-hand experiences as graduate students. That was followed by an Oki sign and T-shirt making seminar in the Science Commons Atrium, and a workshop on storytelling with Blackfoot Elders and the Making Treaty Seven Cultural Society.

Festivities wrapped up in the afternoon with a film screening from director Nyla Innuksuk.

“This is a week of our events that showcase all of our students on campus, honouring our Indigenous students, as well as welcoming all of our students on campus and acknowledging that we are moving forward, building relationships, learning opportunities, and just having everyone together for a week of cool Indigenous activities,” said Lindi Shade, Manager of Iikaisskini Indigenous Services.

“We always welcome everyone, it is an open invite to everybody in the community to come and partake in our activities.”

Looking at the academics, Iikaisskini Indigenous Services partnered with the School of Graduate Studies to give a seminar highlighting the work Indigenous grads have been doing, hoping to spark that drive in other students, and convey the importance of their work with audiences.

“We are giving our Indigenous master’s students an opportunity to display their work, what it is they have been doing in their Master’s program, and speak more about their experiences as a whole,” said Hannah Thomas, Graduate Recruitment Officer.

“The fact that we are on Treaty Seven territory, we need to recognize the Indigenous peoples and their contributions towards this land and towards our knowledge.”

The event was a first for Indigenous Awareness Week looking to continue the seminar in following years and work with more students and their studies.

“As a community we need to make sure that these students know how important their work is and how important the work is to their communities,” said Jackie Rice, Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Vice President of Research.

Kalli Eagle Speaker and Kansie Fox spoke during the presentation, sharing with those in attendance their history with education and the work they are doing in their master’s program. Fox has a bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology, and is working to complete an interdisciplinary biological science and sociology research master’s program.

Eagle Speaker has a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in both psychology and Indigenous studies, and is working to complete their Master of Education Counselling Psychology program with a goal to become a registered psychologist.

“I want to speak about my journey getting into graduate studies, and the barriers and limitations that come with it, and where I am now with research that I have done in the past to get to this point,” said Eagle Speaker.

“It is really important that we have these examples of Indigenous students that are capable of entering higher academia. Unfortunately, the population is relatively low within graduate studies. Something that I have heard a lot is they say education is the new buffalo. That meaning of how we used to survive off the buffalo, now in the modern age education is how the new Indigenous generation is going to survive. I think achieving education is one of the most important routes that we are going to succeed.”

Indigenous Awareness Week continues all week on campus, with today’s Buffalo Treaty Signing at 11:30 a.m. in the Science Commons Atrium which looking to make history for the university. “I would encourage people to come out to our activities. We are excited and each year we are striving to make it bigger and more inclusive, not just at the university but the city of Lethbridge,” said Shade.

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