Aug. 5, 2020

Get to know UCalgary’s new Indigenous cultural engagement and protocol specialist

Elissa Twoyoungmen joins ii’ taa’poh’to’p team to assist in Indigenizing our campus

Last month, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, welcomed Elissa Twoyoungmen as the new Indigenous cultural engagement and protocol specialist. In this dynamic role, Twoyoungmen will work closely with faculties and units across the campus community to provide cultural protocol advice, training, and advocacy. She’ll also help to connect people with Traditional Knowledge Keepers to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into teaching, learning, research, and special events in the campus community.

UToday caught up with Twoyoungmen, pictured above, to learn more about her background, her new position, and what has led her to where she is today.  

Elissa Twoyoungmen is from the Stoney Nakoda Nation and graduated from UCalgary with a double major in Law and Society and International Indigenous studies. Twoyoungmen considers herself fortunate while growing up to have had strong, influential female role models and mentors from her community; these women gave her the strength, motivation, and inspiration to pursue life-long learning.

I always had an inclination to go to university – as a child, I remember going with my mother to meetings with her professors.

Twoyoungmen remembers sitting with her grandmother and mother while they worked together to complete homework at the dinner table. These memories left a lasting impression.  “My grandmother attended residential school. Back then, students were only allowed to go up to grade 7 or 8; hence, she never received a high-school diploma, which is something she always wanted and eventually did end up getting,” says Twoyoungmen.

Set learning goals

Twoyoungmen adds, “I raise my children to aspire for their learning goals, to seek out new learning opportunities, and aim to live their lives in a good way.”

For a time, Twoyoungmen was not quite sure where her education and career would land her, but she has always trusted and appreciated the journey and lived experience. “ I did not know what I wanted to do for the longest time, but I always had a deep instinct and curiosity for truth, justice, and equality.”

When Twoyoungmen began her studies at UCalgary, she remembers thinking she wanted to study sociology and communications. It was not until Twoyoungmen’s second semester that she began to realize her passion. While taking a course on history and activism in Canada, Twoyoungmen read and learned about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. After that, she decided to take an introductory class in law, resulting in a double major in Law and Society and International Indigenous Studies.

Focus on societal change

Being a proactive ally for social justice leading towards societal change has always been an enormous part of Twoyoungmen’s journey, influenced by her family and community’s history, her lived experience, and her education.

Twoyoungmen is excited about joining the UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy team and grateful for the opportunity to contribute her skills and knowledge. Twoyoungmen says, “It is going to take some time to settle in, but I love learning. I am content that UCalgary has a strong and pronounced Indigenous Strategy already.”

Do you have questions about Indigenous cultural education or protocol at UCalgary? Get in touch with Elissa at etwoyoun@ucalgary.ca.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, 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 towards genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.

  • Photo at top of article: Britta Kokemor