Dec. 8, 2023
2023 Journey Update shows that kinship goes beyond human relations
We are all related. The concept of kinship extending to the world of all living beings was a key message during the 2023 Journey Update event on Nov. 28 at the University of Calgary. The afternoon’s celebration marked the sixth anniversary of UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, and renewed the university’s commitment to truth and reconciliation through speakers, blessings, a round dance and the release of the 2023 Journey Update report.
The theme for this year’s update was Becoming Relatives, a valued concept strengthened by the gathering of Indigenous and non-Indigenous speakers, storytellers, participants, and community members. The event was grounded in a ceremony facilitated by Piikani Elders Reg and Rose Crowshoe.
The event included an opening smudge, a grande entry, and Four Stories offerings, supporting to one of ii’ taa’poh’to’p’s visionary circles: Ways of Knowing, Doing, Connecting and Being. UCalgary staff and faculty from diverse fields of study and backgrounds offered these four stories, recounting recent university achievements promoting our journey of transformation where Indigenous knowledge systems, pedagogies, and partnerships support our parallel path toward reconciliation.
The stories this year were:
Ways of Knowing: One Child Every Child
One Child Every Child is Canada’s biggest research initiative focused on improving child health and wellness outcomes across Canada. The program is guided in part by ii’ taa’poh’to’p and seeks to empower Indigenous scholars to take autonomy and leadership in researching and addressing Indigenous health issues.
By weaving Indigenous perspectives into the initiative, One Child Every Child will better support culturally aware child health care that accounts for Indigenous perspectives on relationality and opens doors for new outcomes in health and wellness research. This research initiative is made possible in large part by the Government of Canada, which has invested $125 million into One Child Every Child via the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.
Ways of Doing: Pathways for Nursing, in partnership with Old Sun Community College
In March 2021, UCalgary and Old Sun Community College (OSCC) entered a partnership intended to provide an Indigenous community route to First Nations and Métis students looking to enrol in UCalgary’s Nursing program. In fall 2022, the Iiyikinaami program, which translates to Spirit Helper, accepted its first cohort of students.
Since its launch, the program has guided students through a Western nursing curriculum along with the traditional ways of the Siksika people. This program allows students to remain connected with their culture and supports systems throughout their degree, in turn setting up Indigenous students for academic success.
Ways of Connecting: SAPL Exhibition for Reconciliation
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released 94 Calls to Action calling upon Canadian individuals and institutions to move forward on a joined path toward reconciliation. With a clear call to action in place, the School of Architecture Planning and Landscape sought to rise to the occasion through a new curriculum for the PLAN 616 Urban Design Studio course.
The course, formerly known as Environmental Design, aims to centre Indigenous perspectives and knowledge in design by inviting Elders from across southern Alberta to share their insights with students and faculty. The results from the curriculum update were presented during the Education for Reconciliation exhibition held at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, heightened by a smudge ceremony and performances from Indigenous dancers that further honoured Indigenous perspectives in post-secondary education.
Ways of Being: Anti-Indigenous Racism Workshop series
The Ways of Being visionary circle suggests action and taking initiative within learning and growth. In January 2023, UCalgary’s Office of Indigenous Engagement embarked on a journey to further this mandate by launching its Anti-Indigenous Racism Workshop series aimed at intercultural capacity-building and promoting truth and reconciliation.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples are greatly under-represented within higher education and continue to experience systemic and overt forms of racism both interpersonally and institutionally. The workshop series addresses the topic of Indigenous racism as a challenge and ongoing barrier to meaningful and respectful inclusion.
The program includes four modules that actively engage with the history of anti-Indigenous racism, its systemic roots and personal stories of discrimination, and sets non-Indigenous participants on a course toward good allyship and becoming relatives. The development of this program was possible in part due to the government of Alberta’s Anti-Racism Community Engagement grant.
Each of the four stories represents the theme of ethical relationality, reciprocity, and building parallel paths. To further support this important message of relationality through the concept of kinship, Dr. Dwayne Donald, BEd’92, PhD, a professor from the University of Alberta, presented on the topic of Ethical Relationality as Kinship Wisdom, a term he uses to describe the way people relate not only to one another, but also to the world around them.
In his presentation, Donald defined ethical relationality as a way of connecting with both humans and the natural world that “does not deny difference but seeks to understand more deeply how our different histories, memories, experiences and spiritual practices position us in relation to each other.”
He also touched on the topics of liberalism, individualism, the concept of self, and the importance of not diluting Indigenous perspectives and wisdom.
The celebration of progress and togetherness ended with event attendees, participants and speakers joining hands for a round dance, moving as one in the spirit of kinship and becoming relatives. Read the 2023 Journey Update report or watch the recording of the event to learn more about UCalgary’s ongoing commitment to truth and reconciliation.
The University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, “in a good way,” UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.