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Welcoming Indigenous staff voices

Queen’s has added new staff positions to provide greater support to Indigenous students and those working with Indigenous communities.

In recent years, Queen’s has been devoting additional resources to supporting and recruiting Indigenous students at Queen’s. This effort has only increased since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission task force report, which featured multiple recommendations (6, 9, and 14) centred on hiring more Indigenous staff and offering greater support to students.

The Gazette sat down with some new members of the Queen’s community (or, in some cases, familiar faces in new places). Please note this is not a complete listing of Indigenous staff members of the Queen’s community, and many positions supporting Indigenous students continue to be posted on a regular basis.

Office of Indigenous Initiatives

Haley Cochrane, Coordinator

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Haley Cochrane]
Haley Cochrane. (University Relations)

Job number one for Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) when she was appointed Director, Indigenous Initiatives in 2017 was to determine which supports she needed to fulfill her mandate.

Haley Cochrane was the first person she hired, in May 2018. Prior to joining Queen’s, Ms. Cochrane worked at another Ontario university in an Indigenous recruiting capacity.

“When I saw this position, it was appealing because of all the Indigenous work happening at Queen’s and the momentum that has already been built,” she says. “It has been a pleasant surprise to see just how much is going on here, and how many allies there are. That kind of commitment makes the work more fulfilling.”

Since that time, Ms. Cochrane has been instrumental in the recruitment of a Cultural Advisor and a Knowledge Keeper to the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, and spearheading many other events and initiatives such as the recent Indigenous Knowledge Symposium.

Ms. Cochrane was raised in Whitby and she is of mixed ancestry. Her father is from England, and her mother is Algonquin from Pikawakanagan First Nation (Golden Lake), in the Ottawa Valley area. Haley is a member of the Bear clan. 

Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator), Cultural Advisor

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Allen Doxtator]
Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator). (University Relations)

Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator) sees his role as focused on education, and bridging the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.

“There has to be a lot more opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to teach at schools so that people are more aware of the truth of what has happened to Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” he says. “We are not trying to make people be oppressed by what we’re saying – we are trying to make people understand why we are oppressed. We need to be able to pull ourselves together – both Indigenous Peoples and settlers – and stand up for each other, and support each other.”

To that end, Mr. Doxtator is encouraging Indigenous Peoples on campus to share their stories and ensure their stories are presented in their own words. He also encourages non-Indigenous People to speak up and take action to support Indigenous Peoples, rather than dwell in the past or take pity.

“I am a strong believer in change and being able to make ourselves change, especially as Indigenous People,” he says. “We can make ourselves not feel that oppression of colonization, and it can make us grow into a better and stronger people and find our way back to our way of life.”

Mr. Doxtator originates from Oneida First Nation of the Thames near London, Ontario, and is a member of the Bear Clan. He brings more than 45 years of experience as a social worker and in related fields to his role at Queen’s.

Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington), Knowledge Keeper

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Grey Thunderbird Tim Yearington]
Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington). (University Relations)

“It’s about helping people learn and remember,” Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington) says of his new role. “It’s about helping people learn and remember the traditional ways, which are really about being better people.”

In his first four weeks, Mr. Yearington has had many opportunities to do this. He has helped host education sessions with staff, advisory sessions with PhD candidates conducting Indigenous research, and participated in recent Indigenous events on campus such as the Knowledge Symposium and Research Workshop. But the process is not always so formal.

“Sometimes we just meet people out and about and have conversations with them about what they’re going through, what they’re struggling with, or what they want to learn,” he says. “In the academic environment, which is about head space and intellectual thinking, we try to balance that out by helping people understand how to learn through their hearts, their being, and their spirit. We also help people break down their fears and barriers so they can learn about traditional Indigenous knowledge and let go of their preconceived notions.”

Mr. Yearington is Algonquin-Métis from Kitchizibi (the Ottawa Valley). He previously worked for Correctional Services Canada in Kingston.

Faculty Resources

[Queen's University Faculty of Health Sciences Cortney Clark]
Cortney Clark. (University Relations)

Cortney Clark, Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator, Faculty of Health Sciences

She began in a new position focused on recruitment, student support, and academic and cultural programming at Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences in August. This new role was created following recommendations from the faculty's Truth and Reconciliation Task Force and from multiple student requests – in fact, when Ms. Clark was hired, she was given a large stack of ideas and offers of support from students.

“There are so many exciting things going on within our faculty – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous initiatives – to address gaps within higher education,” Ms. Clark says. “For instance, later this month we are hosting the National Indigenous Health Sciences Circle to demonstrate our allyship and leadership on this important topic, aimed at driving greater representation of Indigenous Peoples among the health professions in Canada.”

She works closely with other Indigenous student support advisors on campus, ensuring a wide breadth of coverage for Queen’s and Queen’s programs during recruitment activities, and ultimately for overall student recruitment, support, and success through their time here at Queen's.

Ms. Clark is of Mohawk descent and is a member of the Wahta Mohawk Territory in Northern Ontario.

Ann Deer, Indigenous Recruitment and Support Coordinator, Faculty of Law and Smith School of Business

[Queen's University Ann Deer Goodes Hall Smith School of Business Faculty of Law Chipewyan McCrimmon Amanda Kerek]
Ann Deer (centre) speaks with master's student Chipewyan McCrimmon (left) and Smith School of Business staff member Amanda Kerek (right). (University Relations)

“It has to be a team effort in order to be successful,” Ann Deer says, as she reflects on the key lesson she has learned in the two years since she was hired at Queen’s.

Her role has evolved in that time – what started as a recruitment-focused position for three separate faculties has now become centred on recruitment and Indigenous student support for Smith School of Business and the Faculty of Law.

That teamwork approach extends not only across faculty lines – it also extends to students. A pair of Indigenous students - Chipewyan McCrimmon, a student registered in the Master of Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and Lauren Winkler, second-year Juris Doctor degree student – a planning a new conference focused on economic reconciliation to help create greater community resilience and economic prosperity for Indigenous Peoples. Ms. Deer is supporting this initiative with the coordination of administrative assistance from the Faculty of Law and School of Business.

“I am really excited about the support I have received for new ideas to engage the students,” she says, referring to both the conference and an annual start-of-term gathering she organizes for Indigenous students.

Another way she has engaged both students and community is through a series of coffee chats that she launched in the Faculty of Law. This initiative has resulted in a relationship with Akwesasne Mohawk Territory where students make an annual trip to learn about its unique Indigenous court system.

She notes Queen’s is ahead of the curve in its Indigenous recruitment and outreach – when she encounters other school recruiters, many have one person for the entire institution. Mr. McCrimmon, who is Dene and originates in the Northwest Territories, noted the fact that Smith had its own Indigenous support person was a key reason he decided to enroll.

Ms. Deer is Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, and hails from Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.

Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre

Adamina Partridge, Indigenous Events & Programs Coordinator

Adamina Partridge’s first couple of months at Four Directions have been busy. 

In addition to the re-opening of Four Directions following its expansion and renovation, Ms. Partridge has been organizing a number of cultural events including an exercise event based on Indigenous powwow dancing and a traditional Anishnaabe hand drum-making workshop.

Ms. Partridge is Inuk from Kuujjuaq, Québec, though she has lived among various Indigenous communities growing up. She hopes to bring some of her culture into the programming mix at Four Directions.  

“We are hoping to have an Inuit feast coming up if we can get some northern foods in, such as caribou, and possibly some Inuit events next semester,” she says.  

Ms. Partridge also notes she has had the opportunity to share her culture with students, and learn from them. One Inuit student at Queen’s has expanded her knowledge on traditional sewing projects, for example. 

[Queen's University Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre Keira LaPierreAdamina Partridge]
Keira LaPierre (left) and Adamina Partridge (right) of Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre. (University Relations)

Keira LaPierre, Indigenous Recruitment Representative

While recruiters such as Ms. Clark and Ms. Deer focus on specific programs and faculties, Keira LaPierre helps to paint the overall picture of Queen’s Indigenous supports for prospective students.

Ms. LaPierre’s role connects her most frequently with high school students considering Queen’s. Her expertise mainly lies in the Indigenous admission policy at Queen’s, and in explaining the university’s Indigenous support resources including Four Directions.

“Indigenous students want to know about services we provide and ensure they won’t be disconnected from community during their time here, especially if they have strong ties and may be leaving home for the first time,” she says. “Having a centre like Four Directions is very beneficial to these students, and we want to ensure they access the people and spaces we have here.”

Ms. LaPierre is not on campus much throughout the fall, as she is mainly on the road giving presentations and speaking with prospective students and their families. Her work takes her as far as James Bay in Northern Ontario, though most of her time is spent in eastern and southern Ontario.

Ms. LaPierre is Algonquin, with her father hailing from the Golden Lake area near Pembroke.

Other Indigenous staff and faculty at Queen's
Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2018 - Inclusion in the classroom (Dr. Ian Fanning)
Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 - New support for Indigenous students near and far
Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2017 - Two 2017 Queen's National Scholars announced