"Lucy is a trifecta powerhouse - combining deep intellect, grace and power, she has singlehandedly challenged the GLAM sector, in particular the world of museums in the Canadian landscape to reckon with their ongoing systems of systemic violence, oppression and erasures. Channeling her energy into her doctoral studies, Lucy is strengthening her Haida community to be at the forefront of the work of repatriation. She is passionate and gives of herself to her discipline and her field to enact the meaningful changes that need to happen. Moreover, she is dedicated to the power of her mother tongue, motivating all those around her and future generations of Indigenous, Black, and scholars of colour, guided by her ancestors, but giving us all hope for the changes that can take place."

- Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra

"For upwards of twenty years, and before all the buzzwords, Lucy Bell has modeled Indigenous sovereignty, decolonization, and reconciliation. Bell brings grace and diplomacy to her work to repatriate Haida ancestors and belongings. Her praxis invites the museum field to learn from Haida protocols, to centre Indigenous values, and to reimagine the very purposes of these institution. Her dissertation on Haida museology will be an immeasurable contribution to the field, but most significantly, it expands the means and methodologies she creates to make visible the liis - the invisible strings that bind the Haida to each other, to Haida Gwaii, and to their belongings throughout the world."  

- India Rael Young

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Student Profile: Lucy Bell Sdahl K'awaas

October 20, 2021
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Doctoral student in Individualized Interdisciplinary Studies

Sdahl K'awaas hinuu dii kyaang. Dii uu Xaadaagang. My name is Lucy Bell and I come from the Haida Nation. I am an Indigenous Museologist, Repatriator and advocate for IBPOC rights in the heritage sector. I have a M.A. in Indigenous Language Revitalization and a diploma in Cultural Resource Management. I am a Distinguished Alumna from UVIC. I am the 2021 winner of the Sterling Prize for Controversy for calling out the Royal BC Museum for racism. I am a recipient of the BC Achievement Award for my work to repatriate over 500 Ancestral remains. I consider myself a Haida Nerd, I love researching all things Haida in both the Haida and the academic world.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I have an Indigenous Language Proficiency certificate from SFU that I obtained mainly from attending weekend classes and independent studies. I loved how flexible and supportive the SFU First Nations Language Department was and how Dr. Ignace (my supervisor) encouraged me to be an Independent student and to incorporate my two passions: Haida language and Haida museology in my PhD research. Plus, I have a degree from UBC and UVIC already and SFU was calling my name!

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

My PhD research is on Indigenous museology and Haida museum practice in particular. I want to understand what happened to the 12,000 Haida belongings and 500 Haida ancestral remains that have been looted and placed in global museums. I want to tell the Haida story of repatriation that I have been a huge part of. I want to show how we can tie the liis, the thread that ties us to our belongings in museums, how we can incorporate Haida potlatch practice into our museum work and how we can be Watchmen over our belongings. With the help of other Nation-based scholars, I will analyze and tell this important story.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

Being an independent interdisciplinary student has given me great flexibility to study what I want, when I want. I have taken Archaeology and Haida language courses in addition to methodology and theory courses. Two of my courses took place in the ancient Haida village of T'alan Stlang. I got to sleep in a traditional longhouse and study and learn alongside other Haida Nation-based scholars and my supervisor. This has been a very special and grounding experience. My SFU committee members are Dr. Marianne Ignace from Indigenous Studies and Dr. Barbara Winter from Archaeology/the SFU Museum.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

I am so grateful for the Graduate Entrance Award and SSHRC. Having scholarships have been such a blessing as being a student in the city and traveling back and forth to Haida Gwaii for my research is expensive. I also received the SFU Sterling Prize for Controversy. To be honoured for being a whistle-blower and activist for change in the racist heritage field is something I will always cherish. The Sterling Prize also encouraged me to give a lecture with my colleagues Sharanjit Sandhra and Jisgang, Nika Collison about the changes needed in the heritage field. Sitting with these power-houses and advocating alongside them was amazing.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

I would encourage Indigenous graduate students to consider being Independent Interdisciplinary students because it fits well with our interdisciplinary existence.

 

Contact : lbell@sfu.ca

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