INDG Convocation Spotlight: Lenna Nakamura

October 22, 2020

Lenna Nakamura enrolled in the Indigenous Studies (INDG) Post-Baccalaureate Diploma to further her understanding of Indigenous resurgence movements in Canada and inform her role as a settler. 

“I chose Indigenous Studies because as a settler to these lands, I felt that I needed to dive into further learning on the how and why Indigenous People continue to be marginalized today by the many levels of policy and governance that has been created since contact. I now know that my learning will continue throughout my lifetime and I will always try to find ways to elevate the voices of those who have been marginalized by our systems to be able to make some changes.”

During her time at SFU INDG, Lenna was able to apply and align what she was learning in her classes to her interests outside of the classroom.  As an avid backpacker, she learned and researched how the West Coast Trail was created and learned about the long journey of the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht First Nations to work towards co-management of this trail with BC Parks. She was also able to engage with the works of Indigenous authors like Carleigh Baker (Cree/Métis), Tommy Pico (Kumeyaay), and Cherie Dimaline (Métis).

Lenna says that within academia, the production of knowledge needs to expand beyond the traditional top-down and extractive modalities to include ways of, “gaining wisdom and knowledge in a more holistic way by recognizing and acknowledging how people, animals, land, rocks, trees, oceans, ancestors, and all the different things that make up this world are all sources of Indigenous knowledge… I believe that the Indigenous studies department has done a very good of highlighting that.”

Lenna is also an outreach worker and views her experience at SFU INDG as complementary to her work because she’s often supporting youth from different cultural backgrounds. 

Lenna says the process of learning and unlearning is ongoing. 

“ I came to the realization that my education will never really be complete! I think for any settler, this journey to fully comprehend how deeply embedded colonialism is in almost every aspect of our lives is an unsettling process. It has been vital for my self-awareness and identity in how I view myself as a settler to these lands and what kind of relationship I want to have to these lands moving forward.”

When asked what the key to her success has been, she says being patient and kind to herself is critical. Her words of wisdom for other students? “Lean on your classmates and teachers,” she advises. “Connections with your peers can build a more inclusive, welcoming, learning community that will enhance your experience. I am so grateful for being able to share stories and connect with the people in this program. The teachers in this department go above and beyond in supporting their students.”

The Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Indigenous Studies provides in-depth knowledge of Aboriginal and Indigenous issues including First Nations cultures and Indigenous knowledge, historical contexts, natural and cultural resource management, and legal and public policy issues. Learners engage in dialogue and discussion around these issues and evaluate them, considering Aboriginal perspectives. This program is comprised of at least 30 units of upper division or graduate level courses.