Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak at Laurier’s tenth annual Indigenous Education Week


The Office of Indigenous Initiatives is hosting its tenth annual Indigenous Education Week virtually at Laurier, from Oct. 26 to 30. 

“It’s a chance for the public and the Laurier community to engage in speakers and topics related to Indigenous people,” Melissa Ireland, director and senior advisor of Indigenous Initiatives said.

With this year’s theme, “We are our Stories, Come Share with us,” the Office of Indigenous Initiatives has invited four speakers to share their stories with the Laurier community throughout the week. 

Writer, broadcaster and documentary producer Janet Rogers, Member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould, author and educator Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and author and mentor Lee Maracle will be sharing their stories throughout the week. 

“We chose that theme because storytelling is inherent and … widespread in many Indigenous communities from coast to coast to coast, and it’s a common thing that can bring us together,” Ireland said. “Our storytelling tradition unites us and also helps us learn about diversity of Indigenous voices.” 

All speaker sessions are free of charge for both Laurier students and the Waterloo community. They will be held over Zoom and attendees are required to sign up prior to the events. 

Indigenous Education Week often features in-person and experiential learning opportunities in order to highlight Indigenous knowledge, but due to COVID-19 the office has had to shift to virtual programming. 

“This year we decided, because of COVID, to bring in speakers that come [from] across the country that we’ve always wanted to engage with,” Ireland said. 

“Because we are responding to the pandemic, everything is remote and we are lucky to be able to bring in leaders like Jody Wilson-Raybould and Lee Maracle and others … because we might not have been [able to] afford to pay for travel.” 

On Oct. 28, Ireland will be hosting a conversation with Wilson-Raybould, member of the We Wai Kai Nation, who has served in public office for over a decade as regional chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations and as Member of Parliament. 

She is the first Indigenous person to be appointed as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

“We are going to be talking a lot about her book, From Where I Stand, [and] because of the theme of storytelling, I’m going to talk to Jody about her life and leadership and how stories have impacted her leadership aspirations,” Ireland said. 

While Indigenous Education Week, one of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives’ biggest flagship events, is typically held in March, they made the decision to hold it in October this year instead. 

“We really tried to re-jig it because we were getting the feedback that when we did our Education Week in March, students and interested allies and the campus community would maybe discover our services and programming in March, and then there would be a big break and we wouldn’t get a chance to re-engage them,” Ireland said. 

“We decided even before COVID happened that we were going to move it to fall this year, so that we can find and engage Indigenous students earlier as well as have the greater campus community be aware of who we are and what we offer.”

Overall, Indigenous Education Week is a program that intends to engage the community in Indigenous knowledge. 

“Indigenous knowledge has a place within the academy, and we have a thriving Indigenous community at Laurier and Laurier’s campuses and locations, and that we hope that people join with us and learn something they might not have otherwise been exposed to,” Ireland said.

“Knowledge through our traditions and storytelling has really helped bridge differences and understandings of each other,” Ireland said. “Indigenous storytelling has been a generation to generation conversation and we’re really happy to be able to invite everyone to share their stories with us.”

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