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Indigenous academics share knowledge at Matariki Conference

Matariki participants were educated on the Noongar history of the Swan River area with Noongar Elder Walter McGuire. (Supplied Photo)

A group from Queen’s University travelled to Australia this summer to learn about a topic close to their hearts. Ana Mejicano Greenberg (Artsci’18), Jenna O'Connor (M.Ed’18), and Katrina Brown Akootchook (M.Ed’18), along with Professor Lindsay Morcom from the Faculty of Education, participated in the Matariki Indigenous Student Mobility Program (MISMP) in July. The 10-day program was hosted by the University of Western Australia, a member of the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU), and focused on sharing the knowledge, history, and customs of Indigenous Peoples.

L-R: Jenna O'Connor, Prof. Lindsay Morcom, Katrina Brown Akootchook, and Ana Mejicano Greenberg at a Matariki Network event in Australia. (Supplied Photo)

“My time in Australia impacted me both personally and professionally,” says Ms. Mejicano Greenberg. “I have taken many courses on Indigenous Studies at Queen’s, but this provided the opportunity to learn more about indigeneity in other contexts and use that knowledge to delve into my own history. It inspired me to learn more about my Indigenous lineage and the Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala.”

The packed program included opportunities to learn about local wildlife and eat traditional foods, experience Australian history through the eyes of its Indigenous Peoples, and explore the city of Perth, among other activities. The four Queen’s representatives were joined by students and faculty members from other MNU institutions in New Zealand, the U.S., and the U.K. For Ms. Mejicano Greenberg, the chance to meet the other participants and learn about their backgrounds stood out as a highlight.

“It was the relationships which provided some of the greatest value,” she says. “The program offered ten days of intense and amazing intellectual and spiritual stimulation, and the opportunities for introspection and reflection were very important. I enjoyed every session.”

Katrina Brown Akootchook is introduced to local culture hands-on as she meets a koala during the trip to Australia. (Supplied Photo)
Katrina Brown Akootchook is introduced to local culture hands-on as she meets a koala during the trip to Australia. (Supplied Photo)

The program was guided by a number of experts, including academics and museum curators. What made this program special, Dr. Morcom explains, was that these academics were educated in Indigenous Studies; they taught classes about Indigenous knowledge and cultures; and they had Indigenous heritage themselves. 

Jenna O'Connor tours an art gallery in Australia as part of the Matariki Network Indigenous Student Mobility program. (Supplied Photo)
Jenna O'Connor tours an art gallery in Australia as part of the Matariki Network Indigenous Student Mobility program. (Supplied Photo)

“They were knowledge keepers, elders, and professors, and it was interesting to see the way these people engaged western academia but in an Indigenous way, with their knowledge held in the same esteem,” says Dr. Morcom. “It was a privilege to learn from them, and to continue the conversation with my fellow faculty members around the dinner table and hear about their research. The most striking thing for me was the similarity of experience, of culture, and of philosophy across these many different groups, and this has inspired me to engage in broader international Indigenous research in the future.”

Queen’s is a member of the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU),an international group of like-minded universities, each of which is amongst the most historic in its own country and recognized as a premier place of advanced learning. The network aims to create opportunities for collaboration in research and education for its seven international members.

The Matariki Indigenous Student Mobility Program (MISMP) is hosted annually, and will take place at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire in 2018. Applications for this funded opportunity will open in winter 2018. Queen’s 2017 MISMP applicants were assessed by a selection committee of faculty members engaged in Indigenous Studies; the MISMP faculty advisor; and representatives from the Dean’s Office, Faculty of Arts and Science, Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, and the International Programs Office. Shortlisted candidates were interviewed prior to final selection.

To learn more about international opportunities available at Queen’s visit the international page of the Queen’s website and the MNU website.