Woman Warriors Newsletter

Indigenous Feminist Panel: Infusing Matriarchy Into the Academy

Our Event is Sold Out!

This past week we attempted to book a larger room on the UCalgary campus to accommodate the people on our waiting list. Yesterday I received word that there are no larger rooms available, so we are adjusting the agenda to make more physical space for attendees. We are CANCELLING THE LUNCH (which would have taken a large portion of the room) at this event and asking attendees to please bring a bag lunch. We apologize for this inconvenience. It is difficult to estimate the amount of interest in events and we were surprised when tickets sold out in five days. If you would like to be place on the waiting list please email: Shelley@womenwarriors.club.

The following is the press release for our event:

“International Women’s Day 2020 Indigenous Feminist Panel: Infusing Matriarchy Into the Academy”

February 20, 2019 – Calgary, Alberta –

You are invited to attend an Indigenous academic speakers panel, entitled “Indigenous Feminist Panel: Infusing Matriarchy Into the Academy” moderated by two Indigenous women and PhD candidates, Pearl Yellow Old Woman- Healy & Ashley Cornect-Benoit at the University of Calgary Murray, Fraser Hall Building Room 160 on Friday, March 6th from 11 am – 1 pm.

Our three panel members include:

1)Dr. Jennifer Leason, Assistant Professor in Indigneous Peoples’ Health at the University of Calgary and a recently forwarded Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Canada Research Chair (tier II) in Indigenous Maternal Child Wellness. She is Anishinaabek member of Pine Creek Indian Band, Manitoba.

2)Dr. Karlee Fellner, Associate Professor in Indigenous Education Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary. She is Cree/Métis from central Alberta. She has been recently nominated for a Canada Research Chair at the University of Alberta.

3)Eileen Clearsky, M.Ed., Assistant Professor Department of Education at Mount Royal University. Eileen is currently a PhD candidate in Educational Policy, University of Alberta. She is a descendant of the Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) originally from Treaty 4 territory in Manitoba.

The purpose of this panel is to share experiences within academia and stories of how Indigenous women are surviving colonial institutions with spirit intact. Join us in community healing amongst Elders, fellow students, and community members.

Dr. Leason shared, “We are hosting this event to celebrate women, families, leaders and allies who continue to advance and improve the lives of Indigenous peoples here in Canada and around the world. As an academic and researcher, it is important to infuse the academy with our Indigenous matriarchal wisdom of our Elders and ancestors in order to create meaningful and sustainable positive changes.”

To learn more about Dr. Jennifer Leason’s community research, training, and teaching please visit her website: https://www.jenniferleason.com.

Karlee Fellner
Dr. Karlee Fellner is currently on sabbatical leave from UCalgary and has graciously accepted our invitation to be a panel member. Dr. Fellner, associate professor was promoted in 2018 for early tenure based on the community impact of her work. She co-developed the Niitsitapiisinni & Poo’miikapii programs with Kainai and Amakapi Piikani. Please visit the UCalgary website to learn more about Poo’miikapii: Niitsitapii Approaches to Wellness. The application deadline for this program is March 15, 2020!

I made a mistake with Dr. Fellner’s title on the poster and I would like to highlight the correction. She is an associate professor, not an assistant professor. I did not know the difference until she explained the ranks: assistant, associate (tenured), full  professor. She has also been recently nominated for a Canada Research Chair (CRC) at the University of Alberta.

I want to bring attention to these titles and the CRC nomination because representation of Indigenous academics matters. There remains a huge diversity gap (the inclusion of Black/Indigenous/PeopleofColour) in academia including CRC positions, academic leadership, and as PhD students. 

The following are statistics about Indigenous representation in academia (click title to be directed to the full online article):

Canada’s top researcher positions continue to lack diversity, U of A study finds (Summer 2019)

Canada Research Chairs: “There are 2,285 research chair postings across Canada. Between 2015 and 2017, less than a third of research chairs were women, 15 per cent were visible minorities and only one per cent identified as Indigenous. When we think about the number of research chair holders that are either Indigenous or people of colour we are going to see it’s extremely limited,” Altamirano-Jimenez said.

U15 Leadership Remains Largely White and Male Despite 33 Years of Equity Initiatives (Summer 2019)

Academic Leadership: This study finds that the U15 leaders, from deans to presidents and Board Chairs, remain predominately white and male, with scant representation of either visible minorities or Indigenous peoples.

  • U15 Board Chairs are 85.7% white, and 57% male. Only 7.1% are visible minority female, and none are Indigenous.
    U15 Chancellors are 100% white, and 26.7% are female.
  • U15 Presidents are 80% white, and 86.7% male.
  • U15 Provosts and VPs (Academic) are 100% white, and 66.7% male.
  • U15 VPs (Research) nears gender parity with 46.7% female, 20% visible minorities (male and female combined).
  • U15 Deans of faculties and schools: 92.2% are white, 32% are female, and a mere 7.7% are a visible minority or Indigenous person (male and female combined).

The Indigenous Diversity Gap (Spring 2019)

Indigenous PhD Students: “According to the 2016 Canadian Census, Indigenous peoples constitute 5 per cent of the population. Although there are more Indigenous students in the postsecondary sector, the gap in completion rates for Indigenous and non-Indigenous undergraduate students persists and has remained around 14 per cent since the 1990s. Indigenous students constitute 1 per cent of PhD students on Canadian campuses. The gap in college and university teachers is closing with new target hires. Still, in 2018, Indigenous peoples constituted only 3 per cent of college instructors, 1.4 per cent of university professors, and 5 per cent of university presidents. There is a significant —15 to 20 per cent—wage gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous professors.”

The titles and positions of our panel members and moderators are important.
1) Dr. Leason is 1/39 Indigenous academics across Canada that holds a CRC.

Data from the Canada Research Chairs Program Statistics

Chairholders who identify as Indigenous people (Data as of June 2019)
Tier 1: 5 (0.3%)
Tier 2: 34 (1.9%)
Total: 39 (2.1%)

2) Dr. Fellner’s CRC nomination holds the potential to make her 1/3 Indigenous female CRC academics at the University of Alberta. The other two female research chairs are Altamirano-Jimenez and Kim TallBear.

3) Our two moderators, Pearl Yellow Old Woman & Ashley Cornect-Benoit and our one panel member, Eileen Clearsky are all PhD candidates (Indigenous students constitute 1 per cent of PhD students on Canadian campuses).

An excerpt from this CBC News article explains why Indigenous representation and diversity in academia mattes to BIPOC students:

“Diversity is essential to excellence in research, excellence in teaching and excellence in imagining other possibilities, and imagining other solutions for the world’s problems,” Altamirano-Jimenez said.

“When students don’t see their background represented in the faculty body, it’s one way of basically telling them university is not a place for you,” she said. “We need to tell a better story in that regard. We need to tell everyone that university is a place where they can flourish, where they can achieve their full potential.”

PhD student Annita Lucchesi knows this personally.

When Lucchesi learned the University of Alberta has two Indigenous female research chairs — Altamirano-Jimenez and Kim TallBear — she called the news “life-changing.”

“To have folks like that to look to, to learn from, to gain mentorship from and to get a hand from, it can make or break a career,” Lucchesi said.

Lucchesi added the lack of representation has forced her to consider career paths outside of academia.

“It’s hard to navigate university when the leadership within our field and within our programs doesn’t reflect us,” she said.

Lucchesi added academic environments lacking well-established, diverse scholars “can be alienating and sometimes downright hostile.”

As a result, minority students are less likely to pursue graduate-level degrees if they don’t see themselves reflected, Smith said.”

This background information and research about the Indigenous diversity gap in academia highlights how fortunate we are to have a panel of Indigenous academics share their wisdom with us at this event.

For the audience members that are interested in learning more about Dr. Fellner’s academic work please read her most recent publications:

  • Fellner, K. D. (2019). Iskotew & crow: Reigniting narratives of Indigenous survivance & trauma wisdom in the classroom. In S. Carr-Stewart & J. Ottmann (Eds.), Knowing the Past, Facing the Future: Indigenous education in Canada (pp. 143-170). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.
  • Fellner, K. D. (2019). Therapy as ceremony: Decolonizing & Indigenizing our practice. In N. Arthur (Ed.). Counseling in Cultural Contexts – Identity and Social Justice (pp. 181-201). New York: Springer.
  • Ansloos, J., Fellner, K., Goodwill, A., Stewart, S., Graham, H., Mushquash, C., McCormick, R., & Harder, H. (2019). Indigenous mental health and professional training in psychology: Understanding the challenges and next steps towards thriving Indigenous communities. Psynopsis, 41(1), 15-18.

My Upcoming Speaking Engagements & Conferences

March 5th & 6th: University of Calgary presenting Indigenous women’s digital health stories research. Co-emcee of the International Women’s Day Indigenous Feminist Panel: Infusing Matriarchy Into the Academy. 
April 14th-17th: Katimaqatigiit / Nihkhah Łatr’iljil / Ełèts’ehdèe annual gathering organized by Hotii t’seeda (NWT Spor Unit) in Inuvik, NT. This event is co-hosted by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Tłı̨chǫ Government. I was invited to attend this event because I am a recipient of the Researcher Capacity Development (RCD) Award for my digital storytelling research.
May 11th-13th: Alberta SPOR Summer Institute in Calgary, AB.
May 29th-June 12th: The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.