March 13, 2024

Ceremonial welcome celebrates Indigenous scholarship at UCalgary

9 new Indigenous scholars recognized in traditional smudge ceremony
A group of people wearing Indigenous dress smile at the camera
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

In a powerful display of respect and acknowledgment, the University of Calgary recently honoured nine new Indigenous scholars in a traditional smudge ceremony. The event was a significant step forward in recognizing the valuable contributions of Indigenous scholars within the university community. 

The event, held Feb. 29 at the Collision Space at the Hunter Student Commons, also symbolized the university's commitment to working together with Indigenous communities toward a shared vision of inclusivity and respect. 

  • Photo above: Indigenous scholars and dignitaries, back row from left: Marlynn Bennett, Caroline Tait, Christine Martineau, Terry Poucette, Myrle Ballard, Michelle Scott, Pamela Roach. Front row from left: Rod Hunter, Reg Crowshoe, Rose Crowshoe, Aubrey Hanson, Tamara Bodnar. Aubrey Hanson is a current scholar who was also honoured at the event.

In line with the Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the ceremony recognized the valuable contributions of the scholars and fostered a spirit of inclusivity and cultural understanding. Each individual received a special ii’ taa’poh’to’p blanket symbolizing warmth, protection and the university’s commitment to supporting Indigenous voices. Additionally, recognizing the unique identity of Métis scholars, Metis sashes were also included for these scholars. 

New scholars bring unique perspectives

The nine Indigenous scholars each bring a unique perspective and expertise to UCalgary: 

Dr. Marlyn Bennett, PhD, an associate professor and Tier II CRC in Indigenous Children’s Well-being in the Faculty of Social Work, focuses on child welfare, public health, public law and arts-based, as well as qualitative social research. 

Dr. Terry Poucette, PhD, is an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work and the director of Kiipitakyoyis (Grandmothers’ Lodge) — the Indigenous Lodge. She brings on- and off-reserve Indigenous experience to help the faculty in developing Indigenous strategy. 

Dr. Caroline Tait, PhD, also, a social work professor, focuses her research on areas of Indigenous Peoples, health, mental health and wellness, knowledge translation, implementation science, trauma, and violence. 

Dr. Pamela Roach, BSc’03, PhD, an assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, focuses her research on the overarching theme of cognition and brain health in Indigenous populations and other vulnerable groups, including people living with early onset dementia, to enhance equity in populations-based health outcomes.

Dr. Michelle Scott, EdD, the director of Indigenous Initiatives and an assistant professor at the Faculty of Nursing, is committed to opening spaces within the western academy to centre Indigenous voices and Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. 

Dr. Tamara Bodnar, PhD, an assistant professor with the Faculty of Science, focuses her research on understanding how the early environment impacts health across a person’s lifespan, with an emphasis on risk versus resilience. Her work also extends into the community level as she establishes partnerships with Indigenous communities to explore relevant health outcomes. 

Dr. Myrle Ballard, PhD, is an associate professor also with the Faculty of Science, Department of Earth, Energy and Environment. She focuses on Indigenous science and the knowledge of the environment and the ecosystem that many Indigenous Peoples have. 

Dr. Christine Martineau, BEd’96, MA’05, PhD’18, an educational development consultant, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, supports the integration of Indigenous ways of knowing in academic program design and development.

A group of people in traditional Indigenous wear while laughing and holding hands

Brian Calliou celebrates his honour and shares a laugh with the audience.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Finally, Brian Calliou is an assistant professor with the Faculty of Law. He has his own practice in Indigenous law, small business and non-profit law, real estate, and personal injury. He has been involved in community and economic development initiatives with Indigenous agencies, organizations and entrepreneurs for many years.

As the university celebrates these nine scholars, it embraces the opportunity to learn from their diverse perspectives, contributing to a richer, more inclusive academic community. Hailing from diverse backgrounds and fields of study, they each represent a vibrant tapestry of Indigenous knowledge. From environmental studies to social sciences, their work embodies a deep connection to their cultural heritage while contributing invaluable insights to their respective disciplines. 

The ceremony was facilitated by Piikani Elders and ceremonial leaders Dr. Reg and Rose Crowshoe and envisioned by Dr. Michael Hart, PhD, vice-provost (Indigenous engagement). It was a collaborative effort between the Office of Indigenous Engagement, Indigenous Research Support Team and Human Resources.

A group of people stand in a circle during an Indigenous ceremony

Elders, faculty deans and other Indigenous leadership gathered to welcome the new scholars.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Launched in fall 2017, UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, guides the university in a journey of genuine reconciliation and Indigenization. The strategy, based on the principle of "in a good way," embodies Indigenous values of clear purpose, integrity, moral strength, and communal spirit. It shapes the university's future decisions and actions toward Indigenizing campuses and fostering meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities.

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