First Annual Indigenous Faculty Learning Symposium (June 16, 17 and 18, 2022)

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From June 16 to June 18, 2022, Teaching and Learning, in collaboration with the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Indigenous Services, hosted the First Annual Indigenous Faculty Learning Symposium.

The learning was provided by elder Lois MacDonald and knowledge holders Christina Restoule, Laini Lascelles and Clarence Cachagee, with Tyzun James as Firekeeper. It was held at Crow Shield Lodge.

Faculty and Teaching and Learning Consultants joined Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers and a firekeeper at the First Annual Indigenous Learning Symposium

Voices of Indigenous Participants

Reflections from Ashley Watcheston, Yellow Thunderbird Woman, Eagle Clan, and member of Ochapowace First Nation

I am thankful Conestoga College hosted the first, hopefully annual, Indigenous Gathering at Crow Shield Lodge.

The experience surpassed expectations. It was more than just a learning event, and more immersive than any lecture or classroom that I have ever been in. It was truly ceremonial and a very positive experience for me.

Indigenous knowledge keepers and elders welcomed us to join them around a sacred fire, for ceremonial smudging, sharing circle, song, and prayer. For me this was more than just a learning event. To me it was ceremonial. Hearing from knowledge holders and elders was truly what I needed. It helped me on my healing journey, it helped me connect with my peers on a deeper and more personal level, and it nurtured new relationships with my colleagues.

The experience also allowed me to feel a sense of belonging and community as my Indigenous Cultural practices of smudging, prayer and building connections with community members was embraced by all participants. This experience allowed me to connect with my Indigenous colleagues and Allies at Conestoga College, as well as Indigenous community members.

I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to gather at Crow Shield Lodge. Thank you to all those involved in organizing this event, all those who hosted the event and all guests who came. I hope Conestoga continues to incorporate Indigenous Learning for College academics who can share their experience and learnings back to students and I am confident that experiences like this will help educators create safer and more inclusive learning environments for students at Conestoga College.”


Reflections from Clarence Cachagee, Kiway Tinway Innine / NorthWind Man

“It was an honour to sit on the land with the faculty for a day. It was a day of vulnerability, releasing and giving the faculty a starting point. I hope that we can continue to have these gatherings in the spring (time of growth) and in the fall (time of release). Thank you, Conestoga College, for walking with Crow Shield Lodge.”


Reflections from Britney Chordash

“As a First Nations person, I didn’t grow up on a reserve and I didn’t have easy access to or know where to look for resources to learn my teachings and traditions. I was very delighted to be included in Learning Together at Crow Shield Lodge. Over the course of three days, I met new friends and connected more with the ones I already have. I learned some new teachings and songs and gained more knowledge of the medicines and on the healing & sweat lodges.

I was able to meet new mentors who can connect me to the Indigenous communities and help me get involved to learn more about my culture. Most importantly I was able to move a step forward in my healing journey. It’s a little daunting to open up and share personal things, but even to attend to just listen, observe and learn will be a meaningful experience.”


Voices of Allies Supporting and Learning at the Symposium

Reflections from Lauren Spring, Teaching and Learning Consultant

“Being at Crow Shield Lodge, I was reminded of the importance of “space”– being in nature allows for a visceral learning about our world and the ways human well-being is interconnected with environmental sustainability that simply can’t be understood as powerfully in indoor (colonial) institutional settings. I also can’t help but feel that Indigenous folks already have answers to so many of the questions we are currently grappling with when it comes to climate change and living more responsibly in the world.

To me, “decolonizing” pedagogy and post-secondary learning is intrinsically linked to being in and learning from nature; combining new ideas with Indigenous ancestral wisdom, seems a promising way forward.”


Reflections from Kathryn Brillinger, Director of Teaching and Learning

“We wanted to offer a space and a time where Indigenous Knowledge Holders, Elders and faculty could come together and be supported. I was privileged to attend and I laughed and I cried and I learned so much about myself and who I can be in this world. The words of the Elder, Indigenous colleagues and the allies present were gifts I carry forward in my heart and body. I look forward to working together to offer more opportunities to Indigenous faculty.”


As time progresses, Teaching and Learning is planning on offering more land-based learning opportunities for faculty in the future. One goal is to start an Indigenous Faculty Community of Practice in Fall 2022.

Do you know other faculty or employees who identify as Indigenous and would like to participate in or suggest events? Please contact teachingandlearning@conestogac.on.ca with any suggestions.

Wesley Butler

Wesley Butler, B.PR, B.A. Comm, and Cert. Post-Sec Teaching, brings a breadth of experience as a communications specialist to Teaching and Learning. In his time with T&L, he has launched multimedia outreach initiatives to promote educator development opportunities, including a weekly interactive e-newsletter and a feature-length success story series on accomplishments from Conestoga faculty. Wesley has developed and delivered workshops on professional e-mail communication and hybrid internal communications at Conestoga's SupportStaff@Conestoga and E3 Conferences. A Conestoga professor, Wesley currently teaches in the School of Business's Public Relations certificate and diploma programs.

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