Category Archives: Indigenous

Dreamtime and The Seventh Fire

four colors  thunderbird

Four Colors Thunderbird, by Tim Yearington

In our February blog, Tim Yearington, the Algonquin-Métis Knowledge Keeper within the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, writes about the importance of honouring Indigenous knowledge as the key to starting our learning journey 


Lately I find myself pondering, or rather re-imagining, this: A long time ago my Algonquin ancestors saw the future. They did so by honouring and acting upon the knowledge that came to them – directly from the Creator – in what we call “the dreamtime.” One of the interesting things they re-imagined, or rather what they “saw”, was a clear vision of our current time.

To help us face the challenges of today, long ago my ancestors chose to share their vision. They called it the Time of the Seventh Fire.  Their vision revealed that during the time of the Seventh Fire a “New People” will emerge. The New People will be looking to find what our ancestors left behind upon the trail. Aware of the dilemmas of the day, the New People will suddenly wake up and realize they need to find those lost things – very valuable teachings – that were left upon the trail. When the New People finally find those important things, they will need to pick them up. But not just hold these teachings blindly and think about it all as knowledge. Nope, the real reason they are to pick them up is because it’s time to learn how to embrace and use them.

When I think of re-imagining the institution of Queen’s, what I see is that we, ourselves, are the New People. We are slowly waking up to the awareness that, first of all, there is actually a trail; the trail to traditional Indigenous knowledge. Now that we know we’re on this trail, it’s wise to admit we’re lost and often don’t know which way to turn. We’ve reached a fork in the trail yet our own ignorance and fear prevents us from understanding the best way to proceed forward.

How do we make the best choice? How can we proceed up the trail in a respectful way?

The elders from all Nations here upon Turtle Island (North America) – those who still carry the traditional Indigenous knowledge of our ancestors – are given the responsibility of sharing it. Today’s elders are present to encourage the others, the New People, to find the teachings, pick them up and then utilize this wisdom in a good-hearted way. The reason this is now necessary is because we are living in critical times. Could it be that Queen’s is finally starting to re-imagine the truth of the matter that Indigenous knowledge not only still exists, but that it actually holds the key to helping all of us walk up the trail on our learning journey together? This is what I see. This is what I am re-imagining for Queen’s University.

When I was young I was taught, “We go to school in our dreams.” This is because it is believed that this is where the manitous (spirits) come and talk to us and teach us about the knowledge our ancestors have carried since time immemorial to help us be well and have a good life.

So, inspired by the wisdom of my ancestors – wisdom, by the way, that has served us since the time of the last Ice Age – I always feel guided to learn more about our traditional Algonquin knowledge. Additionally, I feel the time is right to embrace it and utilize it in a good way. But more importantly I can admit, from the things I’ve seen during my own journeys into the dreamtime, that what’s most important to our current reality is that we act upon the knowledge and wisdom we have access to in order to consciously create change.

Change is hard. But in this age I believe change is what matters most.

As the creators of our own trails and life paths, I see today we must make a decision at the fork in the trail: We can tokenize Indigenous territory, traditional knowledge and worldview – and even check the box to show we’ve completed the task – but this will only steer us deeper into the darkness of our ignorance. Alternatively, in a respectful way, we can make a real conscious effort to learn more about traditional Indigenous knowledge because, ultimately, it’s today’s Time of the Seventh Fire that will help us change the way we see, grow, believe and think.

My dream is this: I imagine that we, the New People, are now smart enough to realize and accept that Indigenous knowledge holds good medicine to help us learn to be better human beings. And as academic learners, we’d best be wise to recognize our own ignorance first. Because without first acknowledging there is still a cold climate of ignorance, we cannot confidently explore the trail as we seek the true human value of Indigenous knowledge.

Once we do have more awareness about the nature of our life-long learning journey, we will have a critical choice to make: We can either ignore our awareness or we can act upon it.

Tim Yearington

A place of community


Gazette - Round room

Photo: Queen’s Gazette

In this piece,  Kandice Baptiste, the Director of Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre, reflects on how space can be re-imagined to mirror Indigenous values and traditions, and how these changes create a meaningful atmosphere where everyone feels welcome.

It is my understanding that Indigenous education is built off the land and our stories, embedded in these are our worldviews and guiding principles for how to be and do good in the world. This is what drove the recent extensive renovations to the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre.

Taking inspiration from the land the design of both houses was guided by Haudenosaunee and Anishnabee worldview. When you enter 144 there is a round room, which was meant to replicate the feeling of a round house. Inside these round houses, Anishnabee communities have conducted ceremonies for thousands and thousands of years. It is my understanding from Anishnabee teachers I’ve had that the circle speaks to how we are all connected and all learning from each other. I hope that all visitors who come to the centre are open to learning from all of those who they meet there. The circle teaches us that regardless of position, we all sit together, from the smallest creature to the biggest tree.

In 146 you enter the house to a representation of a Haudenosaunee longhouse, which is where my ancestors lived traditionally. In these houses, my ancestors created families, held fires, argued and debated each other, loved and laughed with each other. Inside these houses’ families protected and looked out for each other, babies tested their parent’s patience, young people challenged the community’s protocols and practices, adults sought guidance from knowledge keepers, and knowledge keepers spent time raising the babies. Everyone contributed to the space, took care of it, and had responsibilities to maintain it. It is inside our longhouses that our communities and nations were built and it is because of their love that they continue.

Gaztte - 144 Barrie Entrance

Photo: Queen’s Gazette

It is in these houses and spaces that my ancestors looked forward and talked about the future of our nations and communities. We are, and have always been, contemporary people that will continue to exist in the future. Our communities have always adapted and grown with the times to include clan systems and governance structures like the Great Law of Peace. It is with this knowledge that we continue to build a future while honouring our past.

This is all what Four Directions strives to be; a place of community, of care, of friendships, love, dreams, and memories. As we are settling into the newly expanded centre we are able to continue re-imagining the space. Indigenous students often walk around campus without any sense that they belong here. 4D is a place that is entirely for them; from the art and handprints on the wall to the design of the house. They see themselves here in the present and here in the future. It is a reminder that they do belong and that others who have come before them are present and rooting for them. Just as they will continue to be present for the Indigenous students coming in the future.



Together We Are reaches its fourth year!

Another successful year for the Together We Are blog! Thank you to our bloggers and readers who gave so graciously of their time, creativity and passion. Without your energy and support the blog would not be possible.

In 2018-2019 our blog will focus on (re)imagination. Contributors will (re)imagine the institution, space and dream for the future. Over the course of the next year you will hear from students, staff and faculty reflecting on the challenges and accomplishments of the past as well as their respective visions for the future.

Oh and don’t forget, YOU are part of this conversation as well. Together We Are all part of the Queen’s and broader Kingston community and therefore your comments and feedback are welcome.

Knowing Who You Are

This month, contributor Ann Deer, Indigenous Recruitment and Support Coordinator in the Faculty of Law and the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, discusses her experiences of being Indigenous within western education systems; attributing her strength and resiliency to the Mohawk women in her family who came before her.

“Go learn what the White Man knows and learn it better,”  – Jake Swamp, Mohawk Traditional Chief, Wolf Clan 1942-2010

This is probably the one statement from my undergrad years at Trent University that will always stay with me.  For the first time, an Elder, someone from my community was teaching me in a western setting and his words hit home.  I was asked to write about my experience on campus with respect to diversity.  My experiences here in the western education system go back to when I was young.  A person does not experience life in a moment it is all the events that lead you to a moment that defines how you experience a situation.

For me a visible Mohawk woman, living as one with my traditions as much possible as that can be in a concrete world, I believe my experiences leading my moments in life go back to my ancestors and all they stood for.

I am a true believer that in order to be a leader, a teacher, and an advisor you must know yourself. To know yourself you must know your roots, what and who made you.  I am Tewesaks, Wolf Clan of the Mohawk nation.  I come from a long line of clan carrying women who in my opinion beat all the odds, because we were not wiped out of existence, we are still here.

When I was in elementary school we were brought in to the gym for a presentation on bullying.  The counselor talked about stats (Don’t think anyone knew what he was talking about).  But as this memory lived on in my mind I realize he was talking about us.  Every one of us in that gym was a stat.  He wanted us to know we had choices to make and those choices had consequences, but either way we make our choice we are always going to be seen as a stat.  I now understand he was tired of our people being seen as the problem stat (welfare, prison and jail populations) and wanted to see our students turn these stats around through graduating high school.  Graduating high school does not seem like a huge accomplishment to some, but when the schools were not required to hire qualified teachers and you are not expected to attend college, let alone university and have a career, graduating high school is a huge event.  After all, you are just a stat to be dealt with.

I was lucky my mom against my wishes fought for me to attend a high school with all white kids (The nearby town was predominantly white).  This school had a Chefs kitchen, dance, theater, a real automotive shop and an amazing art teacher who was the only other brown person I remember besides the four other indigenous students who attended with me.  My high school life summarized as a stat: Five Indigenous students began high school together, two female three male.  Two of us graduated and I was the only one not pregnant.  Graduation was after the 90s crisis many who were not there refer to as the Oka crisis. My experience during that time is for another story.

Fast forward to taking the long way around to getting my Master’s in Education Leadership. After many, many rewrites and attempts to be employed in a University I get a call from Melanie Howard, Director of Access to Engineering.  In the call she asks me why I did not indicate that I was Indigenous on my application.  I said I did.  That was a lie.  I honestly thought that was a mistake in the application process and thought what does that have to do with my getting a job?  Never helped me before.  During my first interview to work here at Queen’s I was asked, “What is your definition of success?”  My answer was, “This is; I am being interviewed to work at Queen’s University! Me, the little Mohawk girl, who was predicted through all the stats to be a young jobless uneducated single mom is being interviewed to work at Queen’s University!”  Not an expected answer but it was the truth.

I am aware that when I enter a room I am the visible minority on campus.  But that is okay with me, because I come from a long line of proud clan carrying Mohawk women, we are still here.  I am living the dream my ancestors had for me and bringing many more with me.