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Becoming a Golden Hawk means more than just cheering on our (really good) varsity teams – it means being a student who cares about your community, who works hard in the classroom, and who takes advantage of all the learning opportunities that can happen outside the classroom, too.

The Indigenous Field of Study’s program Elders are people who can integrate the needs of the program and Indigenous values and principles. Our program Elders are people who carry their own knowledge and life wisdom with respect, while respecting the locations of our students, faculty and staff. Program Elders uphold the integrity of the Indigenous Field of Study while supporting students in the development of their wholistic healing practice and knowledge bundle. The involvement of program Elders in the Indigenous Field of Study enriches our program with their life experience, knowledge and ability to affirm Indigenous ethics and teachings.

About the Title of Program Elder

We recognize that the term Elder can foster a variety of meanings and interpretations depending on who is the speaker and who is the listener. For this reason, we have sought to clarify our use of the term program Elder. Program Elders help in the union of Indigenous worldviews within the academy. In our context, program Elder will refer to one’s capacity to carry the vision of the Indigenous Field of Study program and to represent the program in a good way.

Program Elders may carry their traditional medicines and have knowledge of their own traditions and ceremonies. Program Elders will care for the cultural safety of the students, faculty and staff. They will be able to foster culturally safe environments where the integrity of the medicines, sacred circle and sacred teachings are enacted and respected.

The program Elder will be able to ensure that the cultural integrity of the Indigenous Field of Study is upheld.

Roles and Responsibilities

Program Elders provide quality assurance at all levels to ensure that Indigenous peoples concerns, issues and worldviews are considered and incorporated in the Faculty of Social Work. The presence of a Program Elder can lend the presence of a mentor, aunt, uncle, grandparent or teacher. All of these forms of relationships can contribute to the success of our graduates.

Program Elders provide their observations, reflections and advice with staff and faculty and participate in all areas of program development and delivery. Program Elders provide peer support, and both informal and formal teachings to enhance awareness of Indigenous history and worldview. They can also guide Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff and faculty in the development of their own cultural competency of Indigenous peoples and worldviews. Additionally, faculty can seek out a program Elder for advice and teachings as they strive to integrate Indigenous curriculum and learning processes in their classes. Program Elders are also responsible for teaching courses within the Indigenous Field of Study and in doing so provide culturally responsive learning environments for students to reflect on their own identity and practice.

In all areas of the Faculty of Social Work, program Elders are essential consultants around new developments at the school. They are involved in project conceptions and design from the onset through to completion. Program Elders attend classes, meetings, workshops and conferences, representing the Indigenous Field of Study at university events and in the community.

Community Engagement

Program Elders bring community engagement into the Indigenous Field of Study and create a presence of relationships within community. These people help to link culture, community and academy while also teaching students on how to work with community Elders. Program Elders may also facilitate the presence of diverse teachings from a variety of other Elders, nations and communities.

The primary reason for program Elders within the Indigenous Field of Study is to expose students to the respectful blending of culture and professional knowledge in their own learning journeys. They know of the importance of healing and re-learning about our history, worldview, language and culture. A program Elder will walk in a good way with the collective team. These people, because of their own wellness and healing, model and conduct inclusivity at all levels of teaching and learning. The Indigenous Field of Study regards their presence as integral to the delivery of a wholistically based graduate social work program. They provide their reflections and observations of student progress within the program during wholistic evaluations.

Program Elders model and reflect the importance and benefits of living a healthy lifestyle and the importance of healing from the traumas and events that colonialism has created for Indigenous people.


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