Joanne Lacorde & Daniel Huculiak

Joanne & Daniel

Bachelor of Arts, Faculty of Native Studies, 4th Year

Combined Degree,  Environmental & Conservation Sciences/Native Studies, 5th Year

Course:  Native Studies 450/550 (Winter 2022) with Instructor Dr. Nancy Van Styvendale

Who was your community partner and can you describe the project objectives? 

Our Community Service-Learning project involved working with the Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre (IKWC). The IKWC was created by the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs of Alberta. As an organisation they aim to provide curriculum, policy and program development, language and cultural education strategies for First Nation schools and students. The purpose of this project was to aid the IKWC in developing the first digital collection of the written works of the late Dr. Joseph Couture. Taking physical materials found at the IKWC and combining them with sources from the internet, our purpose was to create a digital catalogue that could then be transferred to the IKWC digital library.  As a respected Elder and traditional healer, these works encompass a variety of subjects ranging from areas of education, mental health treatment, community development and federal correctional programming for Indigenous peoples. The digital transfer of Dr. Couture’s biographical and written works into the Dr. Joseph Couture Collection, not only look to provide respect to his research, but also to allow future accessibility for educational research into his life’s work. 

What was your biggest takeaway from your CSL placement? 

Joanne: Capturing the knowledge and words of Dr. Couture, it is an honour to help with his academic works and assist the IKWC in this process.  Two years ago, feathers led me to his grave (I will never know why I was led to his gravesite at Holy Cross Cemetery), but this year, I ended working with his academic works. I was in my second year of university at the time and was wondering where it would lead me.  The rest is history…as I continue my academic journey.

Daniel: The biggest takeaway from our CSL placement was developing a deeper respect for the project we were given and gaining appreciation for the importance of working in a community based setting. Our CSL project gave us the opportunity to apply what we have learned in the classroom outside of a traditional class setting. Through my time at the University of Alberta, the main focus of my studies has often been more focused around grades and performance in the classroom. I believe through this CSL project, I was able to focus more on showing respect for the work of Dr. Joseph Couture and applying myself to achieve the goals of the IKWC. In this community based setting, the IKWC not only helped me understand the importance of the project, but also allowed me to insert my perspectives gained through my time at University into what we hoped to achieve. 

How can you apply any newly gained knowledge/skills to your future endeavours (courses/employment/volunteering)?

Joanne: The ability to work in a community setting and assisting with academic scholarship is a great experience. The community aspect is a great experience for degree requirements.

Daniel: The main knowledge and skills I can apply to my future endeavours stems from the human aspect of our CSL project. Working closely with an organisation such as the IKWC not only helped me develop important social skills, but their guidance allowed me to further understand the importance of our project. In any research project that involves a human element, you must always take into account the different perspectives, values and motivations of those involved. By working on this CSL project, I feel as if I gained valuable insight into these different perspectives but also a deeper understanding of what it means to work with others in a community setting. 

What are some of the ways that COVID-19 has affected your community partner or your placement? 

Joanne: We had to be mindful of social distancing and working away from others. Wearing a mask in the office is challenging.

Daniel: Our course project was unique in the sense that our community partner is located within Edmonton. This allowed us to spend a portion of our time at the IKWC, working with and collaborating with some of their members. The reality of the last few years dealing with COVID-19 has often made these sorts of interactions rare. I think overall as a group we were able to achieve a balance between online and in-person interactions within our project. While we still had to follow all COVID-19 related policies when visiting the IKWC, the opportunity to work in their centre is something that I will always remember. I recognize that for our group, it was a luxury to be given that opportunity, but I also believe it helped me understand the human aspect of what a CSL partnership entails.