In conversation with new associate vice-principal Kanonhsyonne

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) shares how her role as director was elevated to vice-principal 

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill).

Following the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Report the university has created the position of associate vice-principal of Indigenous Initiatives. 

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), previously the director of Indigenous unitiatives, has been selected to fill the position, effective as of Nov. 1. 

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

How do you feel about your appointment?

I’m a little overwhelmed it happened quite quickly actually. I’m very appreciative that my position has been elevated because I believe it’s an indication of the University, principal, and provost’s ongoing commitment to Indigenous initiatives. I’m actually thrilled to be starting this journey with [Simpson]. I’ve known her for many years and our work has intersected a lot, so it will be good to have a colleague you know walking along the same path.

What is your background in Indigenous initiatives?

My whole career has been in the field of education and it’s been in Indigenous educations. I believe education is the key for all of us—for Indigenous people moving forward, but also for the development of better relationships between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people. I have a passion for a revitalization and promotion of Indigenous languages and I’ve worked in that area for a long time, forty years maybe. I think it comes from when I was growing up. I didn’t learn a lot about my traditional culture from my family. Once I did, I became very confident in who I was, who I am as a Mohawk woman. It made it important to me that this information was available to young people coming behind me.

How did you start in your field of Indigenous education at Queen’s?

I was invited to a symposium to talk about how Queen’s could address the educational needs of Indigenous people, primarily in Ontario, but looking really locally at what Queen’s could do. As a result of that symposium, a steering committee [had to] survey Indigenous people [about] what their needs were and how the faculty of education could help them achieve their needs. In 1988, I was hired on a 10-day contract to help develop the survey tools and to help begin to develop relationships with Indigenous communities. I ended up staying 10 years  at the faculty of education, working for the development in the beginning of the Aboriginal Teacher Education program and then staying on in support of that. I, then, was the community liaison for a long time, but I also facilitated student-teacher candidate placements in communities.

What is your vision for Queen’s in terms of Indigenous inclusivity on campus?

One of my main priorities has always been to increase the visibility of Indigenous presence on campus. Even after eight years of work, we’re still not very visible on campus. But I also feel the need for there to be Indigenous faculty in the areas of critical thought, like politics [and] philosophy. There’s been two new hires in gender studies, which is wonderful. Increasing presence and visibility through, not only material culture, but also more people on campus, I think that’s one of my long-term goals, it always has been. We started the indigenous studies minor, so that was another accomplishment. I think we do [graduates] a disservice if they leave this university without knowing about the history of Indigenous people in Canada. We are the foundation of this country—our people existed here before Canada existed. I think that, as world citizens, we need to know the history of this country, especially as we’re representing this university and this country as we go out into the world. I‘ve always been taught you need to remember things, not dwell on them, but to ensure they never happen again. Those are some of my higher aspirations ... that we continue to do that work and that people leave here with a  fulsome  understanding of our history—our shared history.Because, as everyone says, we’re all treaty people. We’re all part of this moving forward.

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