Land As Our Teacher explores the benefits of land-based pedagogies for Indigenous youth/young people, with a specific focus on Indigenous 2SLGBTQIA+ youth, providing safe spaces to reclaim Indigenous knowledges. Youth not only participate in programming, but play an integral role in collaboratively shaping pedagogical content, examining intentions and actions surrounding research, creating ethical best practices for inclusivity, solidarity and safety, and leading projects based on the needs of their communities. Importantly, participating youth in these projects have expressed that the relationships and teachings emerging from these projects have positively shaped their experiences of well-being following their participation.
LAOT programming is overseen by its Indigenous Youth Advisory Board, created to guide and ensure inclusion and accessibility to safe spaces during land-based teachings. This board includes 2SLGBTQIA+ young people and envisions the kinds of programming that would be most meaningful to young people in terms of land-based learning while integrating what we have learned through LAOT in terms of continuing to give space to Indigenous youth to connect and explore diverse aspects of identity and belonging in ceremony with the land and one another. The advisory devises methods for gathering data on how the participants are experiencing teachings and activities as well as overseeing grant awards. To date, the advisory has worked to conceive and implement the inaugural LAOT retreat Restoring our Roots: Land-Based Retreat for Indigenous Youth, held in July 2018, as well as a winter land-based retreat for youth. LAOT and its advisory board will be intimately involved and engaged with and consult on ICLAC’s project activities, decision making, and governance.
Dr. Elizabeth Fast, program lead, is Métis from St. François-Xavier, Manitoba. She has a PhD in Social Work from McGill University (2014) and was hired as a Strategic Hire for Indigenous Youth at Concordia University in 2015 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences. From 2016-2017 Elizabeth served as the Special Advisor to the Provost on Indigenous Directions at Concordia. Before returning to school, Elizabeth worked with youth that were transitioning out of care from the child welfare system and as a social worker. Elizabeth is currently the principal invstigator on research grant that seeks to understand how land-based learning can be used to strengthen cultural pride among urban Indigenous youth and is leading an action research project on improving child welfare services for Indigenous families in Montreal in partnership with the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.
Vicky Boldo is the Cree/Métis Elder in residence at Concordia University’s Aboriginal Student Resource Centre. Born in British Columbia and raised on Vancouver Island, Vicky is a transracial adoptee from the ’60’s Scoop Era. Although she was placed for adoption at birth, she is a strong ally to the survivors of this time. Vicky is of Cree/Coast Salish/Métis heritage. Vicky is a registered energy medicine practitioner (ANQ) and has a certificate in journalism for Concordia. As a research coordinator, she is passionate about affecting change in policy, education and attitudes in social work, health care and education for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. She is highly involved in and around the city as Co-Chair of the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy NETWORK. Vicky sits on the boards of the Native Women’s Shelter and Montreal’s First People’s Justice Centre as Vice-president and she is on the (Police Service of Montreal) SPVM Aboriginal Advisory Committee. In 2016, she resigned from her coordinator position in women’s reproductive medicine with McGill University Health Center (MUHC) to pursue her passions within the Urban community full-time.
Joseph Naytowhow, Elder, is a gifted Plains/Woodland Cree (nehiyaw) singer/songwriter, storyteller, and voice, stage and film actor from the Sturgeon Lake First Nation Band in Saskatchewan. As a child, Joseph was influenced by his grandfather’s traditional and ceremonial chants as well as the sounds of the fiddle and guitar. Today he is renowned for his unique style of Cree/English storytelling, combined with original contemporary music and traditional First Nations drum and rattle songs. An accomplished performer, Joseph is the recipient of the 2006 Canadian Aboriginal Music Award’s Keeper of the Tradition Award and the 2005 Commemorative Medal for the Saskatchewan Centennial. In 2009 Joseph also received a Gemini Award for Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series for his role in Wapos Bay series. That same year he was also awarded Best Emerging Male Actor at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival for his role in Run: Broken Yet Brave and won Best Traditional Male Dancer at John Arcand’s Fiddlefest in Saskatchewan. He has performed for the Prince of Wales, the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan and many other notables. His demanding schedule continues to take him to conferences, symposia, festivals and art/research projects both nationally and internationally.
Milo Lefort is too shy to write a bio right now, but promises he’s working on it.
Two-Spirit Métis multidisciplinary artist Moe Clark is an internationally-renowned artist, educator and activist. Moe has worked with Land as our Teacher and Restoring our Roots and has facilitated creative workshops with Indigenous youth in lockdown facilities and remote communities. In 2016 Moe launched nistamîkwan: a transformational Indigenous arts organization with an emphasis on intercultural, interdisciplinary and intergenerational collaboration. Moe specializes in Iindigenous language revitalization through land-based creative practices in collaboration with indigenous knowledge keepers and communities. She co-created Web of Virtual Kin, an ongoing online series created in response to the pandemic as a gathering place for knowledge sharing, teachings and virtual ceremonies, centering 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous and Black youth, both locally and internationally. Moe has been featured around the world at the UBUD Writers & Readers Festival (ID) and Skábmagovat Festival in Sapmi (FI).
Mel Lefebvre is a Two-Spirit Red River Métis/Nehiyaw/French/Irish mother, artist, writer, researcher and PhD student at Concordia University focusing on urban Indigenous healing and reconnection for Indigenous 2SLGBTQIA+ and Indigenous women through traditional tattooing. Mel is involved in several community projects connected to education, including participation in the advisory board for LAOT and co-developing an emerging prison education project to offer post-secondary education to incarcerated people (Concordia Walls to Bridges Program). Mel is the recipient of the SSHRC Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Master’s Scholarship, the Faculty of Arts and Science Dean’s Doctoral Award, and the SSHRC Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Doctoral Scholarship, and is the vice-president of the board of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.
Christopher Reid is a citizen of the Nisga’a Nation living in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal and raised in Epekwitk/PEI. He is a PhD student in Educational Studies and a course lecturer in Indigenous Studies at McGill University. He is a member of Land as Our Teacher’s advisory board and a member of Indigenous Climate Action’s national steering committee.