Student Profiles


 



Name: Caroline Grady

Community: Ta’an Kwach’an First Nation, Whitehorse, Yukon

Majors: English Literature and Psychology

Minor: Indigenous Studies

Graduated: Winter 2016

 

Caroline Grady, Ta’an Kwach’an First Nation, Whitehorse, Yukon

 




 

Why did you choose to participate in the Indigenous Studies Minor?
I started by taking INDG 200 as an elective in my third year. By the end of the course I knew I wanted to work towards the minor. The classes sparked an interest in Indigenous discourse that I had always held, but had otherwise been unable to engage with in a constructive way and I wanted to continue developing my knowledge.


Has the program influenced your academic or career plans?
The Indigenous Studies Minor has had a huge impact on my continuing education. Though I had always considered studying Law, the opportunity to continue my Indigenous education in this specialized field was a huge motivation for me continuing to Law School. I feel that the minor in many ways prepared me for issues that come up constantly surrounding law’s relationship to colonization and criminality, and gave me a background to address some of these questions in the context of legal studies.


Are there any other comments you would like to make or have highlighted in regards to your experience with the Indigenous Studies Program?
The program is incredibly significant. It provided a space that otherwise didn’t exist at McGill for Indigenous dialogue. It was by far the most valuable part of my degree and I wish that I could have learned more, and went more in depth critically. It fosters a much-needed perspective that was both relatable and inspirational to me in many instances.

 


 

Chris Gismondi, Indigenous Studies Minor from Oakville, Ontario

 


Name: Chris Gismondi

Community: Oakville, Ontario (Anishinaabek Mississauga, Haudenosaune, and Wendat territory: Head of the Lake Treaty No. 14 Land)

Major: Joint Honours Art History and History

Minor: Indigenous Studies

Graduation: Fall 2016

 

 

 

Why did you choose to participate in the Indigenous Studies Minor?
I had always been interested in activism in high school but at the time Indigenous topics were not talked about in schools. I kept hearing stories in the news, but in 2013, I am ashamed to say, I knew very little about Indigenous peoples, topics, and circumstances. 

The summer before university I won a scholarship position on the Students on Ice, Arctic 2013 expedition where I got to see Inuit homeland of Baffin Island and Greenland. I participated alongside Inuit, Canadian, and international youth as we learned about climate change and Inuit life. Thus, upon entering McGill I immersed myself in Indigenous topics to fill the gaps of my knowledge. I attended guest lecturers, presentations, and enrolled in as many classes with Indigenous content as possible. I wanted to learn the full story about Canadian history and the processes that have taken us to the present.

Likewise, I was also interested in these topics from a personal standpoint. I am non-Indigenous (white, gallunaat Settler) and a first generation Canadian of Scottish and Italian descent. My family history does not go back very far on these lands, so as I learn about Indigenous studies I think of how settler-Canadian identity gets formed and what that means for myself and my family, as we get very easily accepted into this notion of what it means to be Canadian. I think Indigenous studies is crucial for newcomers, immigrants, and long established Canadian families. 


How has the Indigenous Studies Program influenced or contributed to your current work and/or initiatives?
One of the ways I educated myself upon arrival at McGill was joining an Indigenous Studies student journal. Four years later, I am still involved and have learned immensely from reading fellow student’s papers in foreign disciplines and organizing events and presentations. My studies have given me a critical perspective from which I now view the work of the journal. Throughout the past year the McGill Student Indigenous Studies Journal has been working closely with Indigenous students and organizations to try to respond to feedback and work in solidarity with these groups.

Furthermore, after attending a Canadian Roots Exchange over the summer on Algonquin territory.  I applied and was selected to be part of the 2016-17 Montreal Youth Reconciliation Initiative team. Although I graduate in a few months, I look forward to continuing these discussions and this work outside of school and student organizing. I am so thankful to the Indigenous Studies Program for giving me a background in Indigenous epistemologies and topics, as well as giving me an opportunity to learn from amazing instructors and colleagues. I am taking these experiences and sharing them as much as possible.


Has the program influenced your academic or career plans? 
The Indigenous Studies program has given me a critical perspective that I bring to my other disciplines of art history and history. I am interested in trying to fill in the gaps around Canadian art and art history while drawing upon what I have learned from Indigenous Studies. I am excited to pursue graduate studies in art history to expand Canadian art beyond canonical genres, and critically analyze the ideologies present in Canadian cultural production. I have become interested in museums and art galleries as spaces where cultural knowledge is transmitted and pedagogy can be shared. Through my graduate studies, and aspirations to work within museums, I am committed to sharing, teaching, and continuing to learn. 
 


 


Name: Clare Heggie

Major: Geography

Minor: Indigenous studies

Graduated: Winter 2016
 

Why did you choose to participate in the Indigenous Studies Minor?
I felt there was a gap in my education. I was learning about geography and environment with no, or very little, Indigenous perspective. I wanted to examine my role and the role of the academy in contemporary Indigenous topics.

Clare Heggie, Indigenous Studies Minor

 

How has the Indigenous Studies Program influenced or contributed to your current work and/or initiatives?
I am currently working with a local food in schools initiative on Haida Gwaii. This position requires sensitivity to traditional Haida food protocols, respect to local food knowledge-holders, and an understanding of how past and ongoing colonization and land dispossession is tied to food security. I believe that the Indigenous Studies Program gave me the tools to engage in this work respectfully and effectively and continue my own learning process.


Has the program influenced your academic or career plans?
The Indigenous Studies Program challenged the way I thought about health, food security, and other topics I’m interested in. It has influenced my future career plans by encouraging me to work in solidarity with initiatives focused on reclaiming health and food systems in marginalized communities.


Are there any other comments you would like to make or have highlighted in regards to your experience with the Indigenous Studies Program?
My favorite courses were those taken under the Indigenous studies program and the content is applicable to students in any department. Aside from the importance of the content, the Indigenous Studies courses encouraged critical thinking and engagement with current events in ways other courses do not.

 


 

Victoria Gagné, Member of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan from Regina, Saskatchewan

 


 

Name: Victoria Gagné

Community: Member of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan from Regina, Saskatchewan

Major: Accounting

Minor: Indigenous Studies

Graduation: Winter 2018

 

 

Why did you choose to participate in the Indigenous Studies Minor?
My final year of high school was pivotal in my assertion of my Métis identity.  During that time, I had an opportunity to take a Native Studies class in lieu of Canadian history.  I consider that year the start in my journey of decolonizing myself and my education.  Upon entering McGill, I decided to take INDG 200 as a continuation of what I had learned about myself and my history as a Métis person in high school.  Through INDG 200 I realized how important it was to continue to decolonize my education and include as many Indigenous perspectives as possible in my degree.  The Indigenous Studies Minor was a way to supplement my Commerce degree with Indigenous perspectives and epistemologies that are relevant to my personal growth and for the work I would like to do in my community.


How has the Indigenous Studies Program influenced or contributed to your current work and/or initiatives?
Through the Indigenous Studies Program I have met incredible individuals and faculty who are like minded and have been a great support and resource to me throughout my academic journey at McGill and who will continue to be long after. 

I am currently the co-President of the Indigenous Student Alliance on campus and I have met many of the club’s current members through the Indigenous Studies Program.  The minor has allowed me to create a network of people who share similar passions and who sharpen and challenge me daily. 

The Indigenous Studies Minor has also been an incredible support, and resource, to the Indigenous Student Alliance.  The program has given the Alliance a platform it would not have had otherwise and has contributed significantly to the club’s growth.  Discussion and demand for Indigenous perspectives and discussions about Indigenous topics has grown on campus because of the program and its support for campus clubs like the Indigenous Student Alliance.


Has the program influenced your academic or career plans?
The Indigenous Studies Program has influenced my academic and career plans in ways I had not anticipated.  As an Accounting Major I originally thought that the Indigenous Studies Minor would be a way to help me learn more about myself and would not relate to my career growth in business.  On the contrary, I have found that having an Indigenous Studies Minor has been extremely relevant to the field of accounting and has made me more competitive in my job search.  The minor increased my interest in Indigenous governance models and Indigenous economic practices and because of the minor I now hope to work with a firm in their Aboriginal Client Services sector. 

The minor allows me to think critically about the complexities within different Indigenous communities and how an understanding of Indigenous topics and ideologies can help me better serve my future clients.  The Indigenous Studies Minor has also encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree surrounding Indigenous focused research regarding governance and economic policy upon completion of my CPA designation.  The Indigenous Studies Minor has helped me to think critically about the role business plays in Canada and the complexities within business decision making that will influence my community and many other Indigenous communities.


Are there any other comments you would like to make or have highlighted in regards to your experience with the Indigenous Studies Program?
I cannot begin to describe the ways in which the Indigenous Studies Minor has enhanced my university experience and my business degree.  It has given me opportunities in my degree I would not otherwise have had.  Every Indigenous Studies course I have completed has challenged my critical thinking abilities, which is not something that happens in any other course I have taken to the same extent.  The Indigenous Studies Program has been an invaluable part of my academic experience here at McGill and it has changed the ways in which I view the world.
 


 

Name: Leslie Anne St. Amour

Community: Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation from Kingston, Ontario

Major: Political Science

Minor: Indigenous Studies

Graduated: Winter 2016
 

Why did you choose to participate in the Indigenous Studies Minor?
I chose to participate in the minor because, for me, it was important to learn more about Indigenous nations and knowledge as well as to be able to have spaces at McGill which were safe to explore Indigenous perspectives.

Leslie Anne St-Amour, Indigenous Studies Minor from the Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation in Kingston, Ontario

 


How has the Indigenous Studies Program influenced or contributed to your current work and/or initiatives?
I am currently an OceanPath Fellow through the University of St. FX working with my community on community programming.  I am unsure I would have had to confidence to pursue this fellowship without having participated in the minor and developing the connections that enabled me to make the decision to be an OceanPath Fellow.


Has the program influenced your academic or career plans?
Since I was only able to begin taking INDG classes in my last year of study, I believe that the program moreso confirmed and complemented my plans to attend University of Toronto law school (due in part to the Aboriginal law program there).


Are there any other comments you would like to make or have highlighted in regards to your experience with the Indigenous Studies Program?
I (along with several others) cried at the end of the last class of INDG 401. I’ve never cried about leaving a class before, but knowing that this was my last class in the wonderful space facilitated by Professor Downey and the Indigenous Studies Program was heartbreaking and I still miss it.

 



Name: Nicole Davies

Community: I am of the Saulteaux and Métis Nations and was raised on Songhees territory (in so-called Victoria, British Columbia)

Major: Honours Anthropology

Minor: Indigenous Studies

Graduated: Summer 2016


Why did you choose to participate in the Indigenous Studies Minor?
I chose to undertake the Indigenous Studies Minor because of my personal and academic interest in the discipline. The minor allows for a great diversity in course selection and this interdisciplinary approach to Indigenous Studies facilitates a comprehensive yet individually tailored engagement with the subject. With this framework of study, my peers and I had the opportunity to tailor the Minor according to our interests while acquiring a thorough understanding of Indigenous politics, histories, and research methodologies.


How has the Indigenous Studies Program influenced or contributed to your current work and/or initiatives?
The Indigenous Studies Program has been formative to my sense of self and has cultivated my self-confidence in contributing to Indigenous scholarship. Due to the extensive guidance I received from professors, specifically Dr. Allan Downey, and the support I received from peers in the program, I have since undertaken a Master of Arts in Indigenous Studies at the University of Victoria. Without my experience in the Indigenous Studies Program’s courses and the support network I developed because of my involvement, I would not have been nearly as self-aware, personally and professionally accountable, and as up-to-date on contemporary and key Indigenous scholarship if it were not for this program. This network of inter-Indigenous accountability and the friendships I have formed stay with me today and are invaluable to my efforts towards moving in a good way. I can say with conviction that I would not be on the personal and academic path I am currently on if it were not for the Indigenous Studies Program.


Has the program influenced your academic or career plans?
The transformative and challenging nature of the program has shaped my passion for and commitment to contributing to Indigenous scholarship as an Anishinaabekwe Métis-iskwêw. Since graduating from the program, my aspirations have been to obtain a PhD in the future. In striving to contribute as a scholar and educator, I hope to use professional engagement with the academy as a resource with which to drive towards on-the-ground actualization of Anishinaabe and Métis nationhood, resurgence, and governance.


Are there any other comments you would like to make or have highlighted in regards to your experience with the Indigenous Studies Program?
The Indigenous Studies Program was transformative for me both personally and academically through both the course materials and the support network I was fortunate enough to cultivate with those invested in its development. The program provides a much-needed space for critical dialogue in the processes of articulating settler and POC allyship and solidarity, honouring gendered perspectives, conceptualizing decolonial Indigenous futurities, and navigating oppressive institutions, the colonized mind, and privilege. These factors make the program an invaluable experience for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students of any academic discipline.

For Indigenous students, the program facilitates identity formation, community connection, and a safe and validating environment in which to be heard, explore pressing affairs, and occupy academia in a way that subverts an academy which otherwise works to marginalize Indigenous students. Settler students engaging in the program are provided with an essential opportunity to engage in positionality within, and accountability to, the settler-colonial legacy they inherit and perpetuate.