The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is hiring a Piluwitahasuwin, an Assistant Vice-President for Indigenous Engagement.
Imelda Perley, UNB’ Elder in Residence, helped the administration come up with the name Piluwitahasuwin, which means “one who promotes change in a good way toward truth.”
The position was advertised in June of 2018 and two candidates were interviewed this week: Cheyenne Joseph and Amanda Rogers. Both candidates presented their personal vision for the application of the University’s recently released University Truth and Reconciliation Committee Strategic Action Plan.
Cheyenne Joseph offered her presentation on Aug. 21. Joseph is a Mi’kmaq from L’sitkuk, the Bear River First Nation in Nova Scotia and holds degrees from Dalhousie and Lakehead Universities. She is currently a Senior Instructor in the Faculty of Nursing at the Moncton site. Joseph has a following of almost 4,000 people under the social media moniker of Mi’kmaq Mama: “Honouring culture in a modern world.”
Joseph dedicated her talk to Nora Bernard, a Mi’kmaq activist, one of the instigators of the processes which lead to the calling of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her vision statement read as follows: “The Indigenous community at UNB is supported to achieve their fullest educational and professional potential nurtured by unity, diversity and inclusion, founded on sacred cultural values.” Joseph stressed the importance of the new AVP’s role as a networker.
Amanda Rogers offered her presentation on Aug. 23. Rogers is a Dakota Birdtail Sioux, born and raised in Wolastoqiyik territory and is currently finishing a Masters in Nursing at UNB’s Faculty of Nursing while working as a nurse in Saint John. Rogers recently developed pilot course titled “Introduction to Experiences of Waponahkiyik (People of the Dawn), the Indigenous Peoples in Atlantic Canada” which will be running in Fall 2018 on UNB’s Fredericton campus. Rogers is also a traditional jingle dancer who has also performed with the Atlantic Ballet Canada.
Rogers discussed the Strategic Action Plan point by point. She believes the university community needs to “create an environment that is inherently anti-racist and anti-oppressive.” For her, the new AVP will be positioned to network around the world and learn from others because, for her, there is “no sense in reinventing the wheel.”
The final outcome of these interviews should be known by the end of September when the Search Committee finalizes its deliberations.
Sophie M. Lavoie is an editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op. She covers arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.