Dr. Tracy Bear is a Nehiyaw iskwêw (Cree woman) from Montreal Lake First Nation in northern Saskatchewan and the Director of the Indigenous Women’s Resilience Project. She has a PhD in English and Film Studies and her dissertation: Power In My Blood: Corporeal Sovereignty Through a Praxis of Indigenous Eroticanalysis won the Governor General Gold Medal award in 2016. She is an Assistant Professor cross appointed with the Faculty of Native Studies and the Dept. of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Alberta. She was the Academic Lead and Professor of Record on the hugely successful Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called ‘Indigenous Canada’. She is also involved with a Research-Creation Laboratory series project with Kim Tallbear and Kirsten Lindquist called Tipi Confessions. This project consists of a tri-annual series of erotically themed storytelling and performance based shows in Edmonton Vancouver, and Saskatoon. Tracy’s work explores how Indigenous articulations of sensuality, sexuality and gender form erotic expressions, and act as decolonizing mechanisms and addresses the question, “If this is my body, where are my stories?” Tracy argues for the recovery and what she calls, the practice of an Indigenous eroticanalysis as a reclamation of sovereignty over our Indigenous bodies.
From art installations, to ceremonies, classrooms and being on the land, I believe education comes in many forms. Today, as an educator, my primary objective is to motivate and challenge learners to become critical thinkers and respectful, engaged and embodied learners. Teaching courses such as Contemporary Indigenous Art and developing a course called Indigenous Erotica, have both critically informed and re-formed my teaching philosophy. The application of my Indigenous methodological approach and my ‘Pedagogy of the Erotic’ promotes deep reflective thinking and embodied action centred around decolonial processes leading to corporeal sovereignty. My pedagogical approach and commitment to excellence in teaching has been rewarded with a graduate teaching award, very high teaching evaluations and uplifting, generous student responses.
I am also a part of the ‘Walking With Our Sisters’ Memorial Art Installation National Collective, I have the tremendous opportunity to work with many Indigenous communities including: community people, Elders, volunteers, leaders, and friends and relatives of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and genderful people. As one of the members of the National Collective, I am responsible for connecting with communities to help plan and guide them as they host the WWOS bundle. I am also accountable to the sacred bundle of WWOS and often travel to these communities, staying for a week to guide the installation and ceremonial process. Each of these communities have complex histories with colonialism, and as one of the National Collective, I must respectfully navigate through often challenging, cultural traditions, protocol and values.
Sara Howdle is a settler historian and the Coordinator of the Indigenous Women’s Resilience Project at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies. In addition to this project, Sara is completing her doctorate in history from York University, Toronto. Her dissertation titled “‘Buried with my own people:’ Indigenous Women’s Political History in Canada, 1968-1994” uses interviews and archival materials to investigate the development of the Indian Rights for Indian Women (IRIW) organization and the intellectual underpinnings that established its political platform. Finally, the dissertation places that political labour, and the IRIW’s position on Indian status and Indigenous rights into the context of postwar Canadian history and natural resource development.
During my masters and PhD, I was an active member of my union local CUPE 3903 at York University, and a coordinator for their First Nations Solidarity Working Group (FNSWG). The group’s work included, support for and collaboration on, the projects of grassroots Indigenous leaders, as well as lobbying other labour unions to support their work. My PhD research was inspired and shaped during my time with FNSWG, and the intellect, political practices, and friendship of three central people. The first is Darlene Necan, spokesperson for off-reserve members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation no. 258, and an advocate in the fields of housing, legal protests, and governance. One of Necan’s main projects is, “Biimadasawiin: Reclaiming Land, Rebuilding Home” in Treaty 9 territory in northern Ontario. My conversations and work with Giibwanisi Red-Tailed Hawk, retired activist and full time decolonialist played a key role in my understanding the role of humility and kinship building in political work. Nellie Carlson, Nehiyaw iskwêw from Saddle Lake was a co-founder of Indian Rights for Indian Women whose leadership on women’s treaty rights presented the Canadian government with a profound challenge to their claim to Indigenous lands in the postwar period. Visits with Nellie and her daughter Ruth, sitting around the kitchen table with tea and donuts continues to provide inspiration and humour to my life and political work.
Amanda Gould, a nehiyaw iskwew from Fort McMurray First Nation, with a Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies and a certificate in Aboriginal Governance. She currently works in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. Gould is a passionate advocate on community-led approaches to gender-based justice, with a long history of involvement around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-spirit folks. She has co-organized the Sisters in Spirit marches and vigils in Edmonton through rain, shine, and snow. Winning a Social Justice Award in 2012 from the Institute of Advancement of Aboriginal Women. Gould is also a fancy dancer, reconnecting and strengthening her heart to spirit every time she dances at pow wow, within community and also does performances using the Fancy Shawl dance to create awareness for MMIWG. In her spare time, she facilitates pow wow dance classes, sews and presents at high schools. She is a mom, a sister, an auntie to many young people, and a good friend. (Amanda left the project for another opportunity in Fall 2018 and we miss her! Good luck Amanda ❤ )