In 2016 I worked on a photo essay for the annual print issue of Ryerson’s Folio Magazine. The essay featured female Indigenous leaders on campus. I picked three students and three administration and faculty members who had made a positive contribution to Ryerson’s community. The full essay can be viewed
here, between pages 25 and 29.
Katherine Minich is a PhD candidate at Ryerson. Motivated by her Indigenous heritage, her dissertation studies Arctic freshwater in an age of climate change. Minich is Inuk, born in Nunavut in the town of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island. She says she believes her work is relevant to everyone, citing Qaujimajatuqangit, which in Inuit culture means that each individual is responsible for the land, the wildlife and the water.
As Ryerson’s campus elder and traditional counsellor, Joanne Dallaire’s job is to understand Indigenous traditions, philosophies and histories and to counsel students and staff. With over 30 years of social services experience, she has worked with the Toronto District School Board, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She is the recipient of multiple awards, most recently the Aboriginal Affairs Award. Dallaire is Cree Omeshkego and has ancestry in Attawapiskat, Ont. She says that Indigenous students should be proud of who they are and should remember that their ancestors walk with them: “Keep your eye on the prize, and although you may feel it, you’re not alone.”
Pamela Palmater is the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson and an associate professor of politics and public administration. She has worked with the federal government and with First Nations communities to address issues of land development, Indigenous rights and missing and murdered Indigenous women. Palmater sits on Ryerson’s Social Justice Committee. Originally from New Brunswick, she is Mik’maw from the Eel River Bar First Nation. Palmater says that universities need to acknowledge Canada’s Indigenous history and create more support networks for Indigenous people. “We’re all spread out across the country,” she says, “and sometimes we’re the only one in the law school, or the only one in the grad school.”
Born and raised in Etobicoke, Jamie Lee Morin is in her fifth year of her English degree at Ryerson (She graduated in June 2016, but the magazine was published in March). She is a student member of the Aboriginal Education Council and co-founded the Toronto Indigenous Student Writers Collective, a cross-university initiative in Toronto that encourages Indigenous writers to socialize and to share their stories. Lee Morin identifies as Métis. She says, “don’t forget who you are and where you come from.”
Cyndy Baskin, an associate professor of social work, has been at Ryerson since 2001. She has published multiple research articles and two novels. Baskin was a coordinator of Chang School’s Certificate of Indigenous Knowledges and Experiences in Canada. She is the chair of Ryerson’s Aboriginal Education Council and the vice president of the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto. Baskin is of Mi’kmaw and Celtic nations and says that Indigenous students sometimes feel unrepresented in university, because courses lack Indigenous content. “They need mentors,” she says, “they’ll find their ways to my door.”
Danielle Sinclair is working on her Bachelor of Social Work at Ryerson. Born and raised in Toronto, she is of Anishinaabe, Cree, Métis, and European heritage. Sinclair is very involved at the university and is a student member of the Aboriginal Education Council and the Aboriginal Advisory Committee for the school of social work. Danielle says Ryerson should create a range of supports that reflects the diversity of Indigenous students.