Our Position Statements
Indigenous Identity Statement
Currently there is much discussion and distrust within, and around, Indigenous communities related to Indigenous identity. The purpose of this statement is to clarify a WIIH position on issues related to this topic in order to provide a tool to help ourselves and others navigate challenging times in a good way.
Indigenous peoples are already highly marginalized within health and social services;
COVID-19 will thus have a greater impact on these populations in these and other ways.
Askaakamigokwewigamig (Mother Earth Teaching Lodge)
About the Lodge:
Askaakamigokwewigamig (Ah-skaw-kom-ih-goh-kweh-whi-gah-mig) was raised on Oct 2, 2020 in the New College Quad behind Ivey Library on 20 Willcocks Street lead by Dr. Debby Wilson Danard, Traditional Knowledge Practitioner, Life Promotion Ambassador, and Provost Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-2021) along with her family (Cameron, Nelson, and Talyn Skye Bell) a dynamic group of faculty members (Maria Hupfield (UTM), Mikinaak Migwans (UTM), Dr. Jennifer Wemigwans (OISE), Nicole Latulippe (UTSC) and volunteers (Doug Anderson and son Nigel Anderson(Wemigwans), Ember Migwans, Dr. Bonnie McElhinny (Principal New College), and Jeff Monague (Park Manager, Springwater Provincial Park).
In response to the COVID pandemic, Askaakamigokwewigamig was built to ensure open air, physically distanced learning on the land while engaging Indigenous knowledge, teachings and ceremony as an essential aspect of continued learning.
Since that time, Askaakamigokwewigamig (the Lodge) has been maintained as a sovereign, self-governing space, by a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty, staff, students, and volunteers with relationships across the tri-campus of the University of Toronto and in the wider community.
Through October 2020- April 2022 the Lodge had financial and administrative support by New College – University of Toronto – Women & Gender Studies Institute, and funding by The School of Cities inaugural Anti-Black Racism/Black Lives and Anti-Indigenous Racism/Indigenous Lives Funding Initiative (Dr. Debby Wilson-Danard, BEd, MEd, PhD; Dr. Jennifer Wemigwans, PhD; Mikayla Redden, MLIS, New College).
The primary Traditional Space Protocol for the Lodge is: No drugs, No alcohol, No Violence. Her continued presence acknowledges land, healing and reconciliation as the relationship for mobilizing health, strengthening mental health and well-being and life promotion for students, faculty, staff and community attending in-person at the University of Toronto, St. George Campus.
Following ceremony, in April 2022, Askaakamigokwewigamig will continue with financial and administration resources from Waakebiness Institute for Indigenous Health (WBIIH)
Respectfully, the student-centered Lodge is further supported with generous consideration and commitment to Indigenous education and mental health research by Associate Professor Dr. Suzanne Stewart who is the Director of WBIIH and Special Advisor the Dean on Aboriginal Education and the Chair of the Indigenous Education Network and Assistant Professor, Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle who is the Associate Director of WBIIH, and recent University of Toronto Early Career Teaching Award (2022) recipient for leading U of T’s first land-based masters in public health – Indigenous health (MPH-IH) program and the collaborative specialization in Indigenous health (CSIH) program.
Askaakamigokwewigamig (Mother Earth Learning Lodge) Leadership
Askaakamigokwewigamig will continue to be an “open access” lodge to inspire sustainable and ethical reciprocity and responsibility for Indigenous-led self-determination with land as the central relationship. In recognition of cultural jurisdiction, the Lodge will be considered “the people’s lodge” and will not be dominated or conform to a singular cosmology. The Lodge will respect and acknowledge the many (Turtle Island) Nations teachings, ceremonies and practices.
Currently, the Lodge continues to be self-governing and guided with the following leadership roles:
Traditional Gokoomis (Grandmother)
Dr. Jacque/line Lavallée, Waabizheshi Doodem (Ojibwe Marten Clan) is from Shawanaga First Nation, East Shore Georgian Bay and holds her Doctorate of Social Justice Education (OISE/UT) and Masters of Environmental Studies and Teaching. She is an Ojibwe Traditional Teacher and Traditional Gokoomis (Grandmother) and she holds her Second Degree (Teaching Degree) in the Three Fires Midewigaan. She is also a singer, dancer, song writer and an exceptional storyteller using her own life story as an introduction into the traditional and spiritual aspects of being an Anishinaabe Ikwe (Indigenous Woman). She has been the ‘Elder-in-Residence’ at OISE since 2012 and an active participant in Toronto Indigenous communities.
Clayton Shirt, is Wolf Clan, Plains Cree/Anishinaabe, originally from Treaty 6 Territory. Clayton Shirt is a traditional knowledge practitioner of holistic health and wellness, lecturer, educator and historian. His worldview and understanding of life is based on living his whole life immersed in learning from his traditional Indigenous teachers, Elders and family. He is currently the sitting traditional knowledge teacher/educator with Waakebiness Institute for Indigenous Health where he is able to bring his traditional perspective and vast experience in ‘walking the good path’ to scholars and educators. He also brings wise counsel and support to Indigenous students seeking higher learning. He was raised and currently lives in Toronto, with his wife and family of three children and his beautiful granddaughter.
Dr. Hopi Martin, Lenni Lenape/Briton/European, was born in Massachusetts and raised in Tkaronto (Toronto) where he belongs to the Waabizheshi Doodem (Ojibwe Marten Clan) and upholds responsibilities of Gichitwaa Oshkaabewis (Sacred Helper, Messenger, Fire Keeper, Lodge Caretaker). He holds his Masters of Arts in Child Study and Education and a PhD in Developmental Psychology and Education (OISE/UT). Dr. Hopi’s research and practice focuses on Circle Teachings that support cross-cultural, land-based pedagogies at the ‘edge of the bush’ between nations, peoples, and worldviews.
Lodge Door Keepers
Dr. Deb is Anishinaabekwe traditional knowledge practitioner, visual and performance artist, lecturer, writer, water protector, life promotion ambassador and sturgeon clan member from Rainy River First Nation. Growing up, she was raised with her grandmother’s love and commitment to sharing traditional Anishinaabek teachings and way of life. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow working with Dr. Angela Mashford Pringle on cultural safety at WBIIH.
Doug Anderson (York University, PhD student)
Doug (Métis) is the Creative and Strategic Director at Invert Media. He has consulted extensively on education and program development for Indigenous communities across Canada for over 20 years. Since 2001, he has devoted much of his energy to research and writing on Indigenous histories and cultures, and translating them to contemporary education systems and media. He is a sessional teacher at New College, and Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School (JICS) student supporter and Indigenous educator (and author of JICS’s (Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School) teacher resource: Natural Curiosity 2nd Edition).
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