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Strengthening Indigenous voices

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) accepted the new role of Director, Indigenous Initiatives in October. 

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) accepted the new role of Director, Indigenous Initiatives in October. The Gazette caught up with her to find out more about her priorities for the year ahead.

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill). (Supplied Photo)
Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill). (Supplied Photo)

Since transitioning to your new role, what have you been working on?

To start, we have been working on a vision, mission, and values for the Office of Indigenous Initiatives. At the same time, we have been discussing a second vision statement which would capture Queen’s commitment to Indigenous communities. The purpose of these statements is to ensure we are working together in right relations with the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples.

For now, the Office of Indigenous Initiatives is just me with support from the Provost’s Office. I am preparing to hire additional staff, and also working to form an implementation roundtable and team who will assist with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force report recommendations.

As I plan for the year ahead, I am keeping in mind both Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe cultural values, working to marry them together to create cohesive plans which reflect both.

I am happy to say that students still come to see me, seeking advice and help with some aspect of their life on campus. I help them work their way through the system here. Housing is one difficult topic, as Indigenous students often don’t receive enough funding to afford a place to live in Kingston on top of tuition and other living expenses.

We are also working to identify potential space on campus to complement Four Directions. The ‘two-eyed seeing’ space would incorporate both western and Indigenous perspectives and ideally incorporate inside and outdoors space, allowing for smudging. We would use this for teaching, learning, and gathering.

This would also be space for ceremony and for sharing – not just ideas but also food. Food is important in our cultures. When we eat together, we relate to each other on a different level and it makes us like family. Food is part of the gifts that we were given. We honour it and we bring that into everything we do.

 

How do we make Queen’s a place that is more welcoming of and respecting of Indigenous values?

Kanonhsyonne (Jan Hill) speaks at a ceremony unveiling the Queen's Remembers Indigenous plinth, located on McGibbon Walk. (University Communications)
Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) speaks at a ceremony unveiling the Queen's Remembers Indigenous plinth, located on McGibbon Walk. (University Communications)

At first glance, this includes projects like art and statues and plinths which help to raise attention to Indigenous matters. At a deeper level, it is about looking at policy and governance, and seeking ways to incorporate Indigenous voice.

It is about considering how we think about things – knowledge, methodologies, and research and how we conduct it, especially with Indigenous communities. The aim is to create an understanding on every level – how we relate to each other, what our values are, and how we communicate. Try walking in someone's moccasins for a mile.

The Haudenosaunee values of having a good mind, walking in peace; and the Anishinaabe values of trust, humility, courage, bravery, and wisdom, among others, are important to consider in our relationship building. It is important we conduct ourselves according to these things and reflect those values in the way we relate to each other, our students, and our community.

 

What are the next steps for truth and reconciliation at Queen’s?

As I said, we will be forming an implementation team to support the execution of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force as well as some of the national recommendations.

Part of that group’s work will be an environmental scan so we know what is underway and identify gaps. There is a lot of work already underway and I think we can help ensure it is done efficiently and done well.

As part of my work with the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer, I am working with colleagues to try to build seamless transitions for Indigenous students between colleges, universities, and Aboriginal institutes.

We are also looking at how to provide more ‘wrap-around’ services for students from application to graduation. This would include academic, social, cultural, and spiritual support. It’s a bit of an expansion from the level of support we provide today at Queen’s.

We are also working with Advancement to build a strategy for philanthropic initiatives which will support the work of implementing the Task Force recommendations across all facets of the university.

 

What are some recent accomplishments that you are most proud of?

Learn more about Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill):
First Director of Indigenous Initiatives appointed

Leader of Four Directions, Clan Mother, and mentor to many

Aboriginal leaders, mental health advocate among QUAA award recipients

Unveiling the plinth recognizing the impact Indigenous Peoples have had on Queen’s was pretty amazing.

I am proud to have received the Distinguished Service Award in November. I will also be receiving the Alumni Association Mentorship award in March, but I am even more excited about Marlene Brant-Castellano (Arts’55, LLD’91) receiving the Alumni Achievement Award at the same time.

We also recently held a workshop in partnership with the Aboriginal Council of Queen’s University (ACQU), the School of Graduate Studies, and the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC) about conducting research with Indigenous communities. The response was very positive, with over 80 people attending – and not only students and faculty from the humanities and social sciences, but from the applied sciences as well.

At the end of the event, people told us they wanted more…so there will be follow-up events.