by Catherine Etmanski, Will Weigler, Niels Agger-Gupta, Cheryl Heykoop, Lisa Corak, Asma-na-hi Antoine, Krystal Cook, & Shirley Alphonse with introduction by Susan J. Erenrich
26 March 2020
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In this Grassroots Leadership & the Arts for Social Change column, we learn about the work of a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who collaborated to create a series of experiential educational events at Royal Roads University that began to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action. The article shares the context and the background theory behind their work and then takes you step by step through the practice of “Walk With Me” illustrating decolonization and reconciliation through participatory theatre. The article is introduced by column editor Susan J. Erenrich.
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Asma-na-hi Antoine. Asma-na-hi translates as “Caring for Precious Ones”. It comes from my late mother Vera Thompson of the Toquaht Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth lands. My last name comes from my late father is Eugene Antoine from the Saik’uz Nation, Carrier Sekani lands. I am the Manager of Indigenous Education and Student Services at RRU.
Catherine Etmanski. I grew up in Vancouver on the lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people. My mother’s family were New York Dutch, British, and Irish-American. My father’s family were from the Kashubian region of Poland as well as Clan MacDonald of Clanranald in Scotland. I am professor and director of the School of Leadership Studies at RRU.
Cheryl Heykoop. I grew up in Ontario on the ancestral lands of Anishinabewaki and Huron-Wendat Peoples. I am of Dutch and English origin. I am an assistant professor with the School of Leadership Studies at RRU.
Krystal Cook. I am a Kwakwaka’wakw Woman from the Namgis First Nation. I am a graduate of the En’owkin International School of Writing at the University of Victoria and the Centre for Indigenous Theatre’s Native Theatre School Program. I am a theatrical performer, facilitator, and poet. I work with Aboriginal Nations Education Division in School District 61.
Lisa Corak. I was born on the traditional lands of the Tsleil-Waututh people. I worked professionally in theatre, primarily as a production stage manager, for over 15 years. I now enjoy supporting the leadership programs at RRU, especially the experiential learning activities.
Niels Agger-Gupta. Born in Germany to German-Norwegian parents, I grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on nêhiyawak (Cree), Oceti Sakowin (Sioux), and Métis lands, before I lived in Calgary on the borderland between the Niitsitapi / Siksika (Blackfoot) and the Tsuut’ina (Sarcee) Nations for 20 years. I am an associate professor with the School of Leadership Studies at RRU, supporting mid-career leaders to create empowering change in their own communities.
Shirley Alphonse. I am from the Cowichan Tribes and a member of the Heron People Circle. I serve as a spiritual representative of the T’Sou-ke Nation and I am the Elder in Residence for BC Premier, John Horgan. I work with people of all ages, including children and youth, to share my teachings to preserve cultural knowledge.
Will Weigler. I was born and raised on the lands of the Multnomah peoples in Portland, Oregon. I am a theatre director, playwright, producer, and professional storyteller, and have written five books on different aspects of co-creating theatre with people in communities about the issues that matter to them.
Susan (Susie) J. Erenrich is a social movement history documentarian. She uses the arts for social change to tell stories about transformational leadership, resilience, and societal shifts as a result of mobilization efforts by ordinary citizens. Susie holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University and is the founder/executive director of the Cultural Center for Social Change. She has more than four decades of experience in nonprofit/arts administration, civic engagement, community service, and community organizing and has taught at universities, public schools, and community-based programs for at-risk, low-income populations. Currently a professor at American University, she is the editor of Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Grassroots Leadership & the Arts for Social Change (a volume in ILA’s BLB series). She is the producer/host of Wasn’t That A Time: Stories & Songs That Moved The Nation, a live community radio broadcast on WERA.FM. Listen on-demand or live every Friday from 1:00 – 2:00 PM Eastern time.