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Feb. 22, 2023Print | PDF
When it comes to reconciliation, Jaydum Hunt prefers to think about it as “reconcili-action.”
Hunt, who recently joined Wilfrid Laurier University as the new director in the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, says the first step in that “action” is for the Laurier community to learn about the history and current reality of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
She is excited to support the university’s efforts to Indigenize its campuses and incorporate Indigenous ways of being and knowing within its systems. In Hunt’s view, the entire university community will benefit from Indigenization – a key priority of Laurier Strategy: 2019-2024, the university’s strategic plan.
With a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology, Hunt is passionate about organizational change and seeks to create the most optimal conditions for learning and working for Indigenous faculty, students and staff.
Hunt will play a leadership role in Indigenization efforts and concentrate on systemic changes within Laurier alongside Associate Vice-President: Indigenous Initiatives, Darren Thomas. Additionally, she will support and enhance the Indigenous student experience by working with Indigenous Student Services.
Hunt, who is Mohawk Bay of Quinte from Six Nations and European, brings her own lived experience as a first-generation university student to the role. Below, she shares more about herself and her plans for her work at Laurier.
My journey to this role was a unique one indeed. I like to start with sharing that I am the first to go to post-secondary on both sides of my family and it was never expected. I struggled in high school, failed Grade 10 math three times, passed it my fourth and had a similar struggle with English. At that time, I never imagined I would be where I am today.
I was a registered massage therapist for 14 years upon coming into this role. I did my undergraduate degree in social development studies and my master’s in industrial organizational psychology with research surrounding Indigenous employees in the workplace. I am continually grateful for my resilient spirit and mindset and for the support of my mentors along this journey.
I was drawn to this office because I have a passion for organizational change and creating change within these structures. My experience as an Indigenous woman attending and working in another institution also gave me insight into the way that universities need to change. When I saw that Laurier was working on this portfolio and I had the opportunity to work with Darren Thomas (associate vice-president of Indigenous Initiatives) and his team, I jumped on applying. In having conversations with Indigenous people working in colonial organizations, there is a lot that needs to change and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
I think it is a positive step in the right direction and I’m excited that Laurier has made this commitment. As a new person to the Laurier community, I believe it’s important that I listen to my team and the other Indigenous people on campus to hear what they think needs to be done.
In a general sense of Indigenizing or decolonizing the institution, it’s crucial to create an understanding of why things need to change and to help the campus community understand the ways in which Laurier is a colonial institution upholding colonial ways of being and doing.
In order to decolonize or truly Indigenize the institution, we first need to make sure that our office is operating at optimum like other integral offices on campus. We then need to look at the ways in which we can have Indigenous ways of being and knowing within the system to benefit not only Indigenous peoples but all people within Laurier.
Over the past several years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report was released, there have been conversations around what reconciliation looks like for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. However, in that time, the word reconciliation has lost meaning for me.
“Reconcili-action” is how I like to talk about it now, since it requires action.
Within a higher learning institution, we are all familiar with ways we can gather and retain knowledge. The first way that individuals across campus can act is by educating themselves about the history and current reality of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
We can do this by becoming familiar with the TRC, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and by showing up and giving support to the local urban Indigenous community as well as Six Nations and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
When it comes to working with Indigenous peoples, it is important to always keep this in mind: “Nothing about us without us,” and to reframe from assuming that Indigenous students, faculty or staff have the answer to all things Indigenous. When in doubt, look it up for yourself.
I have had the opportunity to visit both student centres and the renovations are beautiful! The services, events and programming within these two spaces are centred specifically around Indigenous students. I look forward to supporting the Indigenous Student Services staff with the services they’re providing for Indigenous students at Laurier.
I hope that in my first year as director of Indigenous Initiatives I can first and foremost develop meaningful relationships with the members of my office and, as an extension, build numerous relationships across campus to hear and understand more about the community.
Within the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, I will be working on our web presence, creating systems within existing programming, designing and implementing new programming, and implementing the strategic plan within the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.
I believe that the most rewarding part of my job will be knowing that current and future generations of Indigenous faculty, staff and students will be able to have the most optimal working and learning experiences here at Laurier.
In addition, I am excited to work with the non-Indigenous community on campus to determine the ways in which they need to be supported. I believe that Indigenizing and decolonizing Laurier will benefit not only Indigenous peoples at Laurier but the entire university community at large.
I am inspired daily by the resilience of Indigenous and racialized people across the world.
My favourite piece of advice that I have received is to live in a good mind, in a good way, and to never worry because tomorrow is another day.
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