Learn More About the Latest Signature Area: (SKIPP)

An overview of the listening, connecting, and building phases that will lead to the development of SKIPP.

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SKIPP co-leads Florence Glanfield and Kisha Supernant

As part of For the Public Good strategic plan, a signature areas development process was launched in fall 2017 to develop and identify existing and emerging signature areas of research and teaching that could address the interdisciplinary complexity of global challenges.

In response to the call for signature area proposals, three were submitted in relation to Indigenous knowledges: Indigenous Language Sustainability (Jordan Lachler), Indigeneity, Place, and Power (Beverly Lemire), and Indigenous Peoples and Place (Chris Andersen). In 2018 Kisha Supernant and Chris Andersen worked on integrating the proposals to create one about Indigenous peoples and research.

“We looked for common themes and landed upon this idea of situated knowledges, which includes Indigenous languages and the relationships between Indigenous peoples and the places which they come from,” Kisha says. “This captures the diversity of teaching and research that is already happening across our campuses. It allows all of the different people doing this type of work to come together to build stronger communities and networks, to coordinate the type of community engagement work that’s being done, and to create a strong community of Indigenous scholars.”

The SKIPP proposal was endorsed by the development panel in November 2018, and later by Deans’ Council. Kisha and Florence Glanfield, the signature area’s co-leads, have planned out a three-year process of listening, connecting, and building to determine what SKIPP will ultimately look like, before officially launching.

Currently in the listening phase, the team is hosting a series of events to gather input from the university community and bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars together.

“We want to create spaces where we can listen to as many people as possible,” Kisha says. “What should this signature area look like? What would be meaningful to you? What kind of supports should we create within SKIPP? We’re taking all this information that people are sharing with us and looking at common themes.”

An Indigenous-only listening event was held in August, and a second will take place on November 27 from 10 am — 12 pm in 9–34 Education South. The focus of the discussion will be around a governance model for SKIPP. The first listening event open to the entire university community was held in early October, and a second is scheduled for November 1, 2019 from 9 am — 4 pm. The entire university community is invited and welcome to attend for as much time as they can. Programming on November 1 will include an overview of SKIPP work done so far, short presentations from people engaged in Indigenous scholarship (teaching, research, community engagement, research creation, and/or activities, locally and globally), and a keynote talk from professor emeritus Carl Urion. He has been engaged in Indigenous work at the U of A for more than 50 years, first as a student and then as a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology.

“We want to build on the work that has already happened on our campuses,” Florence says. “Dr. Urion can provide context for the history of work — for instance, how is it that we even have a Faculty of Native Studies? I think this is really important because as Indigenous peoples we always know that there have been others before us who have been shaping the spaces that we can be in today.”

“We’re not new — we’re a new vision of something that’s been around for a long time,” Kisha says. “We want to provide context to determine where we need to go. We know there are lots of people working in these areas, but they aren’t always in conversation — they may not even know about each other,” Kisha says. “We wanted to create a venue to highlight Indigenous scholarship and allow other scholars to come into that space to learn and connect.”

In addition to the events that SKIPP is hosting, Kisha and Florence welcome invitations to other events and into other spaces to listen.

The next two years of development will move to a connecting phase to assess ideas from the listening phase and start connecting scholars at the university with the larger community. Finally, during the building phase, the team will establish a strong and clear vision about what SKIPP should ultimately be.

“This signature area is going to look different from the others,” Kisha says. “It really needs to be something for which we do a lot of consultation and listening. We need to talk to people about what they need and want SKIPP to be, and centre the voices of our Indigenous colleagues in those conversations.

“The most important thing for us right now is to listen to one another.”

The SKIPP team can be reached at skipp@ualberta.caskipp@ualberta.ca