Nov. 14, 2017

Gather stories and bring them home

Indigenous consultation highlights importance of storytelling to our individual and collective identities
Vicki Bouvier gifted an eagle feather from Piikani Elder Reg Crowshoe at the Native Centre Aboriginal Graduation ceremony in June 2016.

Vicki Bouvier gifted an eagle feather from Piikani Elder Reg Crowshoe at the Aboriginal graduation.

Jeremy Berner

UToday asked several members of UCalgary’s Indigenous community to reflect on key themes emerging from the Indigenous Strategy consultation process. Doctoral student Vicki Bouvier shares her perspective after hearing hundreds of stories during the consultation. 

My name is Vicki Bouvier, I am Michif Métis from Calgary, Alta. with ancestral connections to the St. Francois Xavier community of the Red River Settlement and a doctoral student in educational research in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.

During the recent Indigenous Strategy consultation process last October, I assisted with research and data gathering in order to inform the direction of the strategy. A large part of my role, alongside Jacqueline Ottmann, co-chair of the Task Force Steering Committee, and fellow researcher Gabrielle Lindstrom, was to gather and analyze hundreds of stories that were collected during the consultation events and online survey responses.

One important theme identified was the need to address and eliminate ongoing racism and discrimination experienced by Indigenous students, faculty, and staff at the university. Other themes identified the imperative of aligning the University of Calgary value system with Indigenous value systems, addressing the issues that hinder that ability for Indigenous knowledges to be authentically taught at the university, and increased opportunities for faculty, staff and students on campus to learn about Indigenous knowledge systems and histories.

The Indigenous Strategy public consultation took place on Nov. 4, 2016.

The Indigenous Strategy public consultation took place on Nov. 4, 2016.

Through the hundreds of responses collected, fundamental terms such as decolonization and Indigenization emerged to inform and shape the final strategy.

As a Michif Métis graduate student, the process of decolonization means embodying and enacting my relationships with language, land, kinships, stories, and processes and practices that continue to be denied, silenced, and erased through ongoing colonial structures and tactics. Through my university experiences, I have experienced the subjugation of Métis life — ways which have been harmful to my self-determination as a Métis woman.

I see Indigenization not as a way to make everything Indigenous (because that is not possible), but to journey together and commit to the implementation of the strategy with our minds, bodies, and hearts — to meet each other, as kin, in respectful and ethical ways. Being open with our minds, bodies, and hearts will help us to truly renew relationships based on mutually abiding principles and enactments.

Truth is the crucible to Reconciliation, therefore, we need to engage with the truths of colonial history and the impacts of this history on Indigenous lifeways — there is no other way. Acknowledging truth will allow us to enter into a space that is ripe enough for meaningful and ethical relationships to develop and thrive.

When I listened to all of the stories that were shared through the Indigenous Strategy gatherings, one thing became abundantly clear: Stories are important to our individual and collective identities. They contain the knowing of where we come from and where we need to go. It is up to us, as campus community members, to continue to share our stories while creating new ones too.

The University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy will launch on Nov. 16.