The University of Victoria's newest Canada Research Chair has been awarded to historian, Dr. Waziyatawin (pronounced Wah-ZEE-yah-tah-ween), a Wahpetunwan Dakota who originally hails from Minnesota.
She joined UVic's Indigenous Governance Program on July 1 as The Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, a seat formally held by Taiaiake (Gerald) Alfred.
The Indigenous Peoples Research Chair is a five-year term, with an opportunity for another five years if the first term is satisfactorily fulfilled.
Waziyatawin said that UVic's Indigenous Governance Program was the only position in North America that truly piqued her interest.
"I am really looking forward to the position and the opportunity to work with Canadian people towards liberation. I have a lot to learn about Indigenous People's experience in British Columbia and Canada, but am more struck by the similarities than the differences - what it is like to live in a state of 'unfreedom'," she said.
Waziyatawin grew up with a 'Wasicw' (non-Aboriginal mother) and a Dakota father, which is how she culturally and spiritually identifies.
She took an MA and PhD in American history at Cornell University. After teaching for seven years at Arizona State University, she left to pursue independent research and a quieter, family centered life-style, grounded in her traditional homeland.
"Growing up, I spent time both on and off the reservation and in multiple urban settings. However, I am not fond of urban living and prefer rural-living at Pezihutaziz K'api Makoce - The Place Where They Dig for Yellow Medicine - which is the ancient Dakota name for this area, known as the Upper Sioux Reservation in southwestern Minnesota."
"My birth name was Angela Lynn Cavender and after I married it changed to Angela Cavender Wilson. I legally changed my name to Waziyatawin (Woman of the North), in 2007, a name given to me by one of my grandmothers when I was a little girl."
Waziyatawin, who balances roles as a busy mother, wife and professional research writer, has authored, edited or co-edited four books, including 'In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors' (2006) and 'Indigenizing the Academy: Transforming Scholarship and Empowering Communities' (2004). Her next book will feature a collection of oral histories taken from her grandmother from Upper Sioux, tentatively titled 'When the Plum Trees Blossom' Indigenous survival stories passed on.
"Indigenous women have an enormous role to play in the decades to come.It is through our connection to land and the natural cycles that we understand how to create, nurture and sustain life. It is life, all life that is under threat right now.In reviving our spirituality, as well as our social and political roles, we will strengthen ourselves to play prominent roles in nurturing the land, waters, air, and communities back to health and well-being," she said.
In her new position at the University of Victoria, Waziyatawin's workload will include research on Dakota women (eventually broadening to include all Aboriginal women), writing, publication and teaching one course per semester on research methodology and the strategies of resistance - the struggle for social justice, recovery of Indigenous knowledge, truth-telling and reparative justice.
"When I speak of reparative justice, I am referring to how the perpetrators of tremendous harms will seek to make amends for those harms. In the case of the harms that settler society perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples, some are historical, others ongoing, or have been recently perpetrated. I am interested in the process of how those harms are recognized and addressed."
"Truth telling is an important first step in that journey toward reparative justice. No peace between Indigenous Peoples and settler society will be achieved until restitution is made for historical harms and contemporary harms (including the crime of colonization) have ended," she said.
Waziyatawin has taken a strong stance on the increasing dependence of First Nation peoples on the products of global materialism - Aboriginal communities, who at the same time, are trying to maintain, recover and retain the traditional ways that allowed their cultures to live sustainably for thousands of years.
"I don't reconcile those two ways at all - I think they are fundamentally irreconcilable. In the coming years we will need to challenge the adoption of the values of consumption and materialism that continue to grow in our communities as a consequence of colonization."
"Yet, because we have participated, often uncritically, in living according to the values of consumption and materialism prevalent in the dominant society, we are all part of the impending environmental crisis and the collapse of our 'oil-based civilization.'"
"In the coming decades, not only will Indigenous Peoples have to reject those values, but the dominant society will as well. The way of life promoted by settler society is hopelessly unsustainable."
"This is why it is so important for Indigenous peoples to recover our ancient value systems that require a more respectful and sustainable way of interacting with all of creation. Our lives will depend on it," said Waziyatawin.