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People of SFU: Meet Nicole Taylor-Sterritt, manager of Indigenous protocols, SFU Ceremonies and Events
Nicole Taylor-Sterritt is building relationships and sharing knowledge while helping SFU advance reconciliation throughout its events.
“There comes a time when we have to decide to do one of two things: business as usual, or put in the work to build better relationships with people, because that’s the right thing to do,” says Taylor-Sterritt, who joined SFU’s Ceremonies and Events in November to help integrate Indigenous protocols into SFU events.
Of mixed Gitxsan and European heritage, Taylor-Sterritt was not raised in her Gitxsan culture, but has since worked to learn her people’s history and culture to find out more about who she is and where she feels she belongs.
In that search for her identity, Taylor-Sterritt learned a lot about protocol, working with Elders and doing things in ways that respect Indigenous histories and cultures. And it’s through that lens of two-eyed seeing (considering things through both an Indigenous and Western worldview) that she approaches her role—to Indigenize SFU events, like Convocation, with respect and without appropriation.
“It’s exciting to be a part of an organization where reconciliation and Indigenization are prioritized,” says Taylor-Sterritt, who has a background in culinary management and business and who co-founded and ran the Indigenous Women’s Leadership Summit prior to coming to SFU.
An avid outdoors adventurer, Taylor-Sterritt enjoys snowboarding and hiking and walks along the seawall every day at lunch. Despite her food allergies, she loves visiting wineries in the Okanagan, where she lived for the past seven years, before moving back to Vancouver last year. In her spare time, she’s a coach with RavenSPEAK: Emerge, a public speaking program for Indigenous leaders.
Her many projects at SFU include planning for the upcoming Convocation, Honoring Ceremony for Indigenous graduands, hosting a recent panel in support of the Moose Hide Campaign against gender-based violence, working with Indigenous drummers to film a special AR experience for the Surrey Gala and the opening of new student residences. One of her big projects will be incorporating more Indigenized regalia into SFU’s Convocation ceremonies.
She says weaving Indigenous protocols into events like Convocation are generally received well. It invites people to ask questions and to educate themselves about Indigenous culture. It also helps Indigenous students feel welcome and that SFU is a place where they belong.
“We will be focusing on consulting and engaging with SFU’s Indigenous community to ensure we’re doing things in a good way”.
Throughout her work, a major focus will be on building relationships with Elders, honoring their knowledge and experience. But she admits that trying to build those relationships amid a pandemic has been a challenge.
“It’s necessary for the university to build better relationships with the Nations on which all three campuses reside,” says Taylor-Sterritt. “There were people who lived on Burnaby Mountain, in Surrey and in Vancouver. All these lands, we forget sometimes that they were literally ripped from the people who lived there—and who still live there.”
One lesson Nicole Taylor-Sterritt has learned in discovering her identity—mistakes may be made.
“If I’ve learned anything in my search for belonging in my Indigenous culture, it’s that we’ll all make mistakes along the way. But it shouldn’t stop us from trying to be better – for doing all things with love and good intention. This movement towards reconciliation is a learning process for everyone—Indigenous and non-Indigenous—as we move forward together in this world.”
Meet Nicole Taylor-Sterritt, manager of Indigenous events protocol, SFU Ceremonies and Events:
I’m an avid podcast listener and recently have been loving Brené Brown and her conversations with some incredible individuals on topics of race and EDI. Her podcast is called ‘Unlocking Us.’
My go-to book is ‘Embers’ by Richard Wagamese – all of his books are full of teachings and I highly recommend people read his work.
My favourite shows from the last year are: The Morning Show, Trickster, Little Fires Everywhere (and the book), The Undoing, The Sinner and Queen’s Gambit.
This is a story in our People of SFU series, where we’re celebrating SFU’s unsung heroes—those who go above and beyond the call of duty to create community, advance SFU’s mission and make the university a great place to work and learn. You can read more stories here.