Elevating the voices of Indigenous women is among the goals of the speaker series Cheyenne Ritchey is helping organize, a necessity not lost on the ULethbridge student.
While growing up, Ritchey says she did not see enough Indigenous representation in academia, with the voices of Indigenous women rarely heard.
“It is an honour that with this position I get to help give a platform for these Indigenous women to share their knowledge and have others listen to them,” says the Indigenous studies major. “As an Indigenous woman, sharing the knowledge of these women also inspires me to be able to do this myself in the future.”
The six-speaker series is organized and hosted by Indigenous, Radically!, the ULethbridge Department of Indigenous Studies and the Galt Museum & Archives. It is partly funded through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Connection Grant and the Mastercard Foundation.
An Indigenous Speaker Series was held last year on campus, but as a one-time event only and with a limited number of speakers, says Dr. Paul McKenzie-Jones, Chair of the Department of Indigenous Studies. This year the decision was made to recruit an exclusively female team of Indigenous students to fit the theme of an Indigenous Women's Speaker Series, he adds.
The speaker series provides community education and connection with Indigenous women in academia, focusing on what they have worked on, their current work and future research plans. McKenzie-Jones recruited the speakers with the help of Indigenous Studies instructor Yvonne Tiger. The team of six undergraduate students are sharing the responsibilities of promoting the series, website design and maintenance, setting up for each event, publicly introducing the speakers and interacting with attendees.
“The idea is that the students get real-world experience of event planning, public speaking, team building and self-direction. They also gain access to Indigenous scholars from outside Alberta whose voices they would not otherwise get to hear,” says McKenzie-Jones. “Hopefully it inspires them to build professional, technical and creative skills they can take into the world after university, but with a sense of confidence and empowerment on their own terms as Indigenous people.”
Tyra Hercina, a general social sciences major, is excited to work on the speaker project as part of a team which includes Ritchey, Morgan Paul, Georgia Walkus, Emily Mcneill and Tatiana Weasel Moccasin.
“I hope that this series will provide students and community members who have never engaged with Indigenous female scholars a place to do so,” says Hercina. “And spark future events where Indigenous women and their research can be highlighted in a meaningful way.”
The 2023/24 speaker series began in October with Dr. Tina Taitano DeLisle. Following the Nov. 30, 2023 event with Tsinhnahjinnie, the series will resume in 2024 with further details to be released as available.