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Wab Kinew spoke on Indigenous Knowledge as part of the Fall 2016 President's Dream Colloquium.
October 13, 2016

A Reflective Conversation on Wab Kinew and the Tsleil Waututh Ceremony

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by Shauna Glover and Sophia Hunter

The purpose of the SFU President’s Dream Colloquium “is to create a rich experience of knowledge mobilization, diverse community engagement and capacity building for a new vision” in the context of Education for Reconciliation

Sophia Hunter and Shauna Glover, who are enrolled in the associated interdisciplinary graduate course, have engaged with fellow students, faculty and Indigenous leaders, in envisioning a new path forward which incorporates the wisdom of Indigenous knowledge.

The following conversation includes observations and reflections about Wab Kinew’s presentation: Indigenous Knowledge in the Globalized World and the preceding Tsleil Waututh ceremony.

Shauna: I had the privilege of experiencing Wabanakwut Kinew’s passion during a presentation at Carson Graham Secondary in North Vancouver. Drawing on narrative, Ojibwe song, and hip hop, Wab inspired over 1200 high school students to a place of deep understanding.

Sophia: One of my first memorable school experiences was being at a potlatch hosted by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. When an elder got up to speak, she was helped onto the stage. She was treated with such reverence and deference by the other adults that her presence silenced a gymnasium full of children. I do not remember what she said, but I remember peering over the heads of the students in front of me to catch sight of this woman that inspired quiet.

Shauna: As part of the SFU Dream Colloquium series, organized by Dr. Vicki Kelly and Dr. Brenda Morrison, I was thrilled to see Wab Kinew again as he spoke about Indigenous Knowledge in a Globalized World at the Vancouver Playhouse on September 29th, 2016.

Sophia: I was plunged back to grade 3, when the Tsleil-Watuth Nation held a special ceremony to welcome Wab Kinew to Vancouver. Conducted mostly in Halkomelem, with explanations in English, the ceremony brought the audience directly in contact with traditional ways of being, knowing and celebrating. As Wab stood on four blankets, he was wrapped in a stunning blanket made by hand especially for him.

Shauna: During the Eagle Dance Song, Wab was rooted at the centre of the circle as the dancers revolved around him, wings beautifully spread. What remains etched in my memory is Wab’s admiration as he observed Cyrus, a young boy, immersed in dance. Wab looked over at Cyrus as he told him that his ancestors were smiling at him from above. He addressed the audience stating that Cyrus was proof that the residential school system did not work as it failed to “kill the Indian in the child”. Wab’s statement was met with impassioned applause.

Sophia: When Wab started his talk, he said that usually began with some jokes but was so moved by the rituals, time and love shared that he did not think it was appropriate.

Shauna: Wab shared an Anishinaabe value, “kiizhewaatiziwin”, and expressed that “every culture on earth could benefit from this way to approach challenges of our time”. There is no direct translation in English; its closest meaning is “living a life of love, kindness, sharing and respect”. He emphasized the need to restore these values in our present day, especially in working with populations such as “two-spirited”, LGBT youth. As I reflected on the essence of “kiizhewaatiziwin”, I recognized how these very elements were interwoven into the traditional ceremony, the Indigenous teachings and the embodiment of Wab’s aura, itself.

Sophia: The audience embraced the journey in different ways, but as Wab concluded his presentation, we were together in a standing ovation. As I stood there, I could not help but feel that we, as a society, were moving in the right direction.

Shauna and Sophia: There is much work ahead in the area of reconciliation, but Wab’s presentation left us with renewed hope and deep appreciation for Indigenous teachings. 

Shauna Glover
English Teacher - Carson Graham Secondary - IB World School
Active in M. Ed Contemplative Inquiry
SFU President’s Dream Colloquium: On Returning to the Teachings

Sophia Hunter
Teacher Librarian - Crofton House School
Active in M. Ed Contemplative Inquiry
SFU President’s Dream Colloquium: On Returning to the Teachings

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