Roxanne Tootoosis bridges traditional teachings and western education
When I sought my grandfather’s advice before going to graduate school, he reminded me to always remain grounded spiritually. He told me “kiskeyita kikwiya oma nehiyaw iskwewaywin namoya wikac kawanihon.” What he was saying was always know who you are first, as a Plains Cree woman, and you’ll never get lost. I hold that teaching with me all the time and I hope to pass it on to our Indigenous students, staff and faculty, to encourage them to know who they are first, and not to compromise that just because they come into western world and acquire western education.
Despite our history with colonization and residential schools, we can still create a place for ourselves in western education. We don’t walk around in our buckskin and feathers anymore, but we can represent who we are in a contemporary world. We can take pride in wearing our ribbon skirts and beadwork that have been handed down from generation to generation, in being able to speak our languages and hear those languages spoken at the university. We can be grounded in knowing who we are as spiritual people. That’s why we have prayer and smudging available on campus.
My role at MacEwan is to provide a better understanding of who we are as Indigenous people, and to elevate cultural awareness for not only the students, but also the staff and faculty. In talking with some of our students, it’s surprising that some don’t really know who we are as Indigenous people. They’ve heard the negative stereotypes, but they haven’t had a chance to see our beliefs and the positive aspects of who we are. Hopefully at kihêw waciston we can showcase how we’ve adapted, that bridge we built from traditional world to western world, and show students that we can succeed without losing who we are.
- Roxanne Tootoosis, Indigenous Knowledge Keeper and Facilitator
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.