May 31, 2023Print | PDF
Meet Keri Cheechoo, assistant professor of Indigenous Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Cheechoo is Laurier’s first Grundy Indigenous Scholar, a position that aims to further Indigeneity at Laurier, attract and retain top Indigenous scholars, share knowledge, and foster relationships with the wider Indigenous community.
Cheechoo, from Long Lake #58 First Nation, earned her PhD at the University of Ottawa, focusing on what Indigenous women’s stories reveal about public and customary practices, as well as policies and practices of forced sterilization. She completed her MA and B.Ed from Lakehead University.
Cheechoo is a published poet and uses her lived experience in combination with her academic experience to create a space that inspires students’ curiosity and challenges perceptions. Below, she discusses her experience and plans for teaching at Laurier.
Wachiye. As always, I will begin our conversation by situating, or positioning myself. My name is Dr. Keri Cheechoo (she/her), and I am an Iskwew, a Cree woman. My community is Long Lake #58 First Nation, which is in northwestern Ontario, in the nation state referred to as Canada. I am a daughter, mother, sister, grandmother, wife, auntie, cousin and niece. These are my relations, they hold my history and are my memory anchors.
I am also a published poet. I use poetic inquiry (an arts-based methodology) in my work in a way that connects my spiritual aptitude for writing with educational research. As an Indigenous scholar, I use my poetry to make space for Indigenous voice by interrupting and subverting western constructs of academic writing.
There is no singular Indigenous education theory and practice discourse. There is a large collective of Indigenous scholars collaborating through their own epistemological spaces that include worldviews, ways of knowing and ways of being. Knowing this, I share from my own positionality as a Cree scholar-educator who specializes in Indigenous education but also incorporates teachings from those whose scholarship resonates with my own pedagogy.
Keeping in mind Laurier’s strategic vision, I commit to contributing my Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous worldview by collaborating with partners to ensure that services, programs and research are mobilized into new ways of doing scholarly research, developing new forms of teaching and learning, and preparing innovative community leaders. I am committed to strengthening and expanding collaborations to include new partnerships locally, nationally and internationally, and look forward to opportunities to further form and strengthen these relationships.
My teaching style is informed by ethical space and ethical relationality, and from there I engage mamatowisin, or inner mindfulness. Ethical space, according to Dwayne Donald, is a space of possibility that can only be created when we are dealing with two different worldviews. Engaging in ethical relationality means recognizing that you are in a space with people who are unlike you and respecting those dissimilarities enough to meet halfway and learn from each other.
As an educator, I aim to promote an engaged and thriving community through active learning — hands-on, practical instruction, which in turn motivates students to grapple with ideas rather than passively absorb them.
Teaching should inspire direct engagement with concepts, texts and learning. To this end, I try to ensure that all learning is participatory, whether in the form of discussion, or through the delivery of material.
I also use real-world examples wherever possible, including multimedia, workshops and guest speakers. I often invite artists to teach through their art and regularly invite guest speakers to share their knowledge. Such material allows for enormous diversity of experience.
I recommend reading the following as a great starting point to allyship:
Celebrate Indigenous History Month
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