Indigenous studies student, Jacob Knudsen, draws artistic inspiration from many sources

June 23, 2020

A singer, a pow wow dancer, a regalia maker, a writer and a drummer: Jakob Knudsen is an artist on many levels.

Knudsen, who majors in Indigenous studies and minors in legal studies, draws artistic inspiration from many sources; from his great grandma Valerie McDonald to qwó:pelhp (a thorny plant used by the Stó:lō people for medicinal and spiritual purposes) to the Zapatistas Army of National Liberation in Mexico.

Knudsen also draws inspiration from antique and thrift stores, and photos of jewelry and regalia from the 1930s and 40s when contemporary dance styles started to proliferate.

Knudsen sings at all of the places at which he volunteers. He gives his time as a singing teacher and facilitator at Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) First Nations Student Association, where he edits papers for fellow students. He also takes care of the big drum and its maintenance protocols.

In the wider community, he offers his support at the Aboriginal Front Door Society (AFD) and at Pow Wow Night at the Aboriginal Friendship Center.

“I got involved in these organizations because I felt that I was brought into the communities they represent as an outsider and was given unwavering and unconditional support when I most needed it,” Knudsen says. “To give back to the people who helped me, as well as perpetuate the teachings and support I received, is the right thing to do.”

With such a wide array of activities on his plate, Knudsen appreciates the Department of Indigenous Studies’ willingness to offer support and flexibility to allow students to pursue their interests.

“They’ve shown me that they are deeply invested in the ways that Indigenous worldviews and knowledge can intervene in colonial practices in which the state is so unfortunately entrenched,” he says.

Once his BA studies are complete, Knudsen is contemplating moving on to get his master’s degree.

On what advice he can give other students, Knudsen says: “Keep your workload as low as you can so that you can give each class the attention it needs and deserves. Take your time and take advantage of SFU’s resources.”