First student graduates with Indigenous Studies Major

“Education got us into this mess, and education will get us out of this mess.”

These words from Queen’s University Chancellor Murray Sinclair are the words that Megan Rook lives by. She is the first successful graduate from the Indigenous Studies Major program and will receive her degree on June 20, 2022.

“Hearing those words is one of the reasons why I completed this degree and why I think every settler and as many Indigenous people as possible should do this degree,” says Rook.

Originally from Orangeville, Rook’s high school English teacher Susie Chamberlain, who specialized in Indigenous literature, inspired her to start thinking about Indigenous studies and what she could contribute.

“She was the only settler at that time willing to engage. Now you go back, and her entire department is teaching Indigenous literature. I can see it growing, I can see the class sizes growing. I was one of about eight students in my year, now she has three full classes in Indigenous literature. I took her course, and I was exposed to this country I didn’t really know even though I had lived here my whole life.”

Rook had originally selected English as her Major but that became her Minor when she moved into Global Development Studies, which also features Indigenous content in its courses. When the Indigenous Studies Major was announced in her third year, Rook was quick to transition to that study plan for her fourth year.

The new Major is administered by the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and features a wide range of Indigenous topics including Anishinaabe Language and Culture, Inuktitut Language & Culture,  Mohawk Language and Culture, and Reindigenizing People and Environment, among others.

As someone who is non-Indigenous, Rook is asked frequently about her engagement in the program and being the first graduate. She is passionate about why a settler like herself should enroll in this unique Major.

“Settlers are allowed to engage in this too; in fact we have a responsibility to engage. For the first time I learned about the beauty of Indigenous cultures rather than just the traumatic history. Slowly over time I realized this wasn’t a choice, this was something I had to participate in because I am privileged, and I had the opportunity.

“As a settler, I hope more settlers engage in this work. I know it can be quite daunting at times – you don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. It could be scary to engage in this work but I'm hoping people see the first graduate out of the course was a settler and get excited about the opportunity.”

Moving forward, Rook says she has been accepted to the Faculty of Education at Queen’s and is following in the footsteps of her high school mentor by planning to become an English and Indigenous Studies teacher. She also offers thanks to several her mentors at Queen’s that allowed her to finish her Major.

“During my time at Queen’s I have had the privilege to learn from incredible Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars such as Nathan Brinklow, Lindsay Morcom, Liz Brulé, Danielle Delaney, Isabelle St-Amand, and so many more. These professors granted me the great honour of knowledge while going above and beyond by simultaneously offering their passion for these topics.”