Transform the SFU Experience, Uphold Truth and Reconciliation, People of SFU

Ta7talíya Nahanee joins SFU as director, Indigenous initiatives

January 16, 2024
Ta7talíya Nahanee believes in decolonizing practices and reflexivity for everyone because she has experienced that same change in herself.

“My philosophy is who deserves my love? I think of my work as my love, as my creativity, as my, my creation,” says Ta7talíya Nahanee (hear it), a member of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and decolonial creative and educator. "So I take care of it–I make sure that my work is aligned with my values.” Nahanee has recently joined SFU’s People, Equity and Inclusion (PEI) portfolio as director, Indigenous initiatives.

Meet Ta7talíya

Nahanee is renowned for her work in anti-racism, decolonization and reconciliation. Through her company, Nahanee Creative, she facilitates learning and unlearning through her innovative methods.

“I enjoy witnessing personal and systemic transformations,” says Nahanee. “I love the contributions I get to make to pushing back on both the big dials and the tiny microaggressive cogs that keep inequity out of sight and running against so many of us.”

Though new to her role at SFU PEI, Nahanee has been a longtime member of SFU’s community. She completed her master's in communication at SFU, during which she designed a board game as part of her thesis. “Sínulkhay & Ladders”, a twist on Snakes & Ladders, shows the non-linear process of decolonization and helps players unlearn anti-Indigenous racism.

Nahanee was later named an associate with the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and continued to work with a variety of departments at SFU as a facilitator for anti-racism and cultural safety training through Nahanee Creative.

“I met so many great people,” says Nahanee. “Not every experience is good in my work in hosting and sharing my ideas. However, SFU has come a long way since I was coming out of school in 2018. I have been watching this evolution and this growth.”

When Nahanee heard about the director, Indigenous initiatives role, she felt SFU was an ecology that she could contribute to full-time. “There are already great people here doing great things that I can add my superpowers to.”

As director, Nahanee says her focus will be to increase the number of Indigenous hires at SFU and ensure retention in a healthy, supportive environment. “That's where the training comes in.”

First RESPECT cohort begins January 22

This month, Nahanee and Caitlin Stiles, learning development specialist within the PEI portfolio, lead the relaunch of SFU’s RESPECT (Reconcili-action Employee SFU Professional development Education Cultural Teachings) program.

The original RESPECT program was created in response to the Walk this Path with Us Report’s Call to Action 7: Develop intervention programs teaching cultural safety and anti-racism for all employees at SFU. Michelle Pidgeon (SFU Education) and the RESPECT advisory circle led the development of course content, based on survey responses from SFU faculty and staff.

“ I'm excited for people to get reinvigorated with their connection to Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation,” says Nahanee. “I think there was a bit of burnout.”

“This training is not about settlers learning about Indigenous history and feeling bad, and therefore being reconciled,” says Nahanee. “While we share history, it's contemporary. I think it really answers the questions: what now? How can we all contribute to reconciliation–as individuals and as an organization?”

“I don't see it as a model of ‘Now you learn this and you walk away’,” says Stiles. “It's from a model of ‘how can we take value from this, embed it, learn from each other and create a partnership.”

The new training module puts an emphasis on personal and professional development through self-paced online learning as well as cohort meetings.

“We want people to know that it's okay to come with questions–constructive questions, of course, but there's no expectation of specific historical knowledge,” says Stiles.

“I'd love people to spend some time thinking through their ‘why’,” says Nahanee. “I'd love folks to spend some time on the land, looking at where they are, what's their position right now and starting to envision where they want to be.”

To assist in leading the program, Nahanee has also brought on facilitation design expert Amanda Fenton. Nahanee describes Fenton’s and her own approach as centering heart and care, grounded in empathy and emotional intelligence.

“There’s going to be a lot of support but it's really important for people to know going into the course that they need to feel comfortable being uncomfortable,” says Stiles.

“That's what I think good facilitation is,” says Nahanee. “Rather than downloading information, it's supporting you to be your best person through the process.”

Registration for the January 2024 RESPECT cohort is open now. This session runs from January 22 to April 11, 2024 for a total of 11 weeks in a hybrid learning model combining self-study and personal reflection online, with online discussion and periodic in-person meetings. Please note that supervisor sign off is required for participation in the program. Learn more about the program’s history and development at the RESPECT website.