Photo Contest #2 Submissions: Decolonizing the Academy

Winning Submissions

First Place

Demolition of St. Michael's Residential School

"This image was taken in 2015 after the entrance to the St. Michael's residential school was demolished.  This emotional and symbolic event represented many things for observers (like myself), survivors, those impacted by Canada's Indian Residential School (IRS) system - reconciliation, healing, and new beginnings. Growing up close to Alert Bay, I had zero knowledge of the IRS system; thus, witnessing this was a pivotal learning opportunity for me as an undergraduate student majoring in Indigenous Studies. This community visit led by the late Beau Dick was the start of my work with Indigenous peoples and has led me to where I am today."

Susanna Chan, GDBA

Photo taken in Alert Bay

Second Place & People's Choice

Gitumden Territory

"This is a photo of my traditional territory which is where I wish I could be when I feel like an outsider here at the academy. As an Indigenous student, I often feel like "the only or the other" and I often think about home when I feel this way. The land is life."

Michelle Buchholz, Masters of Public Policy

Photo taken in Smithers, B.C.

Third Place

roots in the streets

"Nlaka'pamux Nation Grad Student living in NFLD this summer.  There is no indigeneity reflected in the landscape here, at least not like back home in BC.  There isn’t Indigenous public art anywhere.  I’ve never felt so alone in Canada before.  But today there is one small trace of resistance, scribbled on a wall downtown.  It has been confirmed.  Decolonizing the Academy has roots in the streets.  all across Canada, coast to coast."

Jody Isaac, Masters of Curriculum & Instruction

Photo taken in St.Johns Newfoundland

Honourable Mention

Watch for Snakes!

""Watch for Snakes" warns of rattle snakes in the written language of the Sukwnaqin-x  peoples. Many signs in indigenous territories show indigenous and English languages as a way to indigenize the signage."

Jennie Blankinship, Doctoral Studies, Faculty of Education

Photo taken in Keremeos, Similkameen Territory

Honourable Mention

Place and reconciliation

"The Place + Space Collective is an interdisciplinary collective of SFU graduate students. We aim to work in solidarity with each other and with other communities, through problematizing ways settler colonialism, racism, and sexism exist at SFU. Despite being an institution that claims reconciliation, there are many ways that SFU continues to privilege whiteness and the patriarchy—both in present-day practices and the remembering of its history. Our photo aims to challenge SFU to consider how the shaping of place can contribute towards reconciliation by increasing feelings of belonging for those who face marginalization as a result of systemic social hierarchies."

Natalia Perez, PhD Geography

Photo taken at the Department of Geography - Burnaby Campus -SFU

More Submissions

Feel the inukness

"I chose to take this picture in the library because a lot of research and colonial knowledge are stored there. The big red book symbolizes Canada and its colonial past and the inuit glasses represent Indigenous Peoples. Being able to trade our vision of the world with other glasses is a way to decolonize the academy. It is time to see the invisible for it to become visible for everyone! So, let’s drop our glasses and borrow Indigenous way of seeing the world, our world."

Natacha Roudeix, LCL Program Faculty of Education

Photo taken at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC

White Privilege

"This is a photo of a mixed-media art project I undertook after a great deal of research on allies and was doing the deep personal interrogation required to be an ally to Indigenous people. Part of this process was facing my white privilege as a settler.  I work as an educational administrator in a college, and I was frustrated with how much work was needed to truly decolonize the academy. I was drawn to create this piece to give visual representation to what I was feeling. The white wash of the piece reflects white society and of its grotesque accumulations of wealth and privilege at the expense of Indigenous people.  The red hearts, represents Indigenous people, who were bound and twisted by the white culture."

Lianne Gagnon, Education-Culturally-sensitive place-based learning

Photo taken in Niagara, Ontario

Indigenous Garden

"When I first started working at the college, there was very little that represented the rich Indigenous cultures in this Dish With One Spoon territory except what was called "Aboriginal Garden." This garden was and has remained my refuge in the city. I cycle to the garden and turn my attention to all of the gifts the land has to offer. The garden is small, but it's healing properties are substantial. More and more are learning of the garden now and are seeking solace from it's healing properties. Even in urban areas, Indigenous culture remains, and it's the land that reminds me of this."

Lianne Gagnon, Education-Culturally-sensitive place-based learning

Photo taken in Niagara College

Berry Aware

"While enrolled in one of my courses, professors Sean Blenkinsop and Laura Piersol,  had us spend 20 minutes a day in nature in the same area. I was concerned that I would never find the time to do this, but alas I made it a priority, and it transformed me! My time, BEing in nature, changed my perspective entirely. Suddenly, I was seeing things I had never noticed in this area of land. I became hyper aware of the gorgeous hues, smells, plants, and even the breezes. My world became alive, but more importantly, it became my friend. The lesson was so powerful and one that settlers needed to learn from Indigenous culture. We are all connected to the land, and if we take time to make friends with her, we are less likely to harm her. I continue to visit that same piece of land, and it's always like saying hello to an old friend."

Lianne Gagnon, Education-Culturally-sensitive place-based learning

Photo taken in Niagara, Ontario

Decolonizing through the Coffee House

"I grew up with racism and colonialism all around me. It was tough on the self-esteem. Music saved my life growing up, a time when songs meant everything: love, hope, survival. It still means that much to me, as I navigate a frustrating and colonizing environment at SFU. Decolonization means many things, including dealing with the psychological aspects of colonialism. Staelin (2000) speaks of divesting oneself from feelings of inferiority brought on by colonization and enjoying a healthy self-esteem as a result of a liberated mind and spirit. That's what playing music does for me. It gives me comfort and confidence in the midst of an educational system that still attacks the self-esteem. This is encapsulated in this photograph: alone, self-confident, at ease and peace, making a musical statement about self, music, and 'the system'."

William G. Lindsay (Cree), PhD (Faculty of Education)

Photo taken at the local community (Burnaby) coffee house night event (2016)


"I have chosen to submit this photo as it comes from my graduate research.  I am exploring story, self, displacement and re-membering.  The rocks (Asiniy) presented have been gathered from the Bow River(Mohkinstiss), my hometown.  Stories shared are contained within each rock.  The final photo is the final trace left after the performance; dance, movement and story having moved the rocks from place to place.  To me, this symbolizes the decolonization of the academy as I have had many challenges discussing and presenting my work within the SCA, and the act of presenting this piece is an act of Decolonization."

Jessica McMann, Master of Contemporary Art

Photo taken in Studio GCA 4210

"At the foot of the Sky," Monte Albán, Mexico

""At the foot of the Sky" was once an elaborate city with a population of 20,000 people by 200AD. Located on top of Monte Alban, Oaxaca Mexico are remanants of a once vibrant and sophisticated civilization. The indigenous peoples are utilizing medicinal plants and harvesting traditional foods."

Jennie Blankinship, Doctoral Studies, Faculty of Education

Photo taken in Oaxaca Mexico

Antelope Canyon, the Navajo, and Decolonization

"The Navajo of Arizona are in control of their own homeland, which comprises the largest self-ruled reservation in North America. They are directly responsible for being the caretakers of the famous Antelope Canyon seen in this photo. For me, being on the road with my wife (in photo), in the desert, has always symbolized personal 'freedom' and 'self-determination'. The same is true of the Navajo. Their being recognized as caretakers of their homelands and sacred places like Antelope Canyon, too, symbolizes national 'freedom', 'self-determination', and 'decolonization'. To me, this photo symbolizes all of this and is representative of the kind of 'decolonization' I wish to see continue happen in post secondary institutions."

William G. Lindsay (Cree), PhD (Faculty of Education)

Photo taken in Antelope Canyon, Arizona