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National Indigenous History Month: Jennifer Campeau reminds us to “remember those who came before us, and what they endured so we could be here.”

June 18, 2021

Articles

“Every generation strives to do better than the last, I think that we need to actively listen to what their needs are and ensure that we leave this place better than we found it.”

National Indigenous History Month is a time for learning about, appreciating, and acknowledging the distinct heritage, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. This year in particular, National Indigenous History Month provides a time to reflect upon the history and strength of Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island.

In honour of National Indigenous History Month, a few Indigenous team members of the newly-formed Rogers Indigenous Collaboration (IC) Community Engagement Team will be sharing their stories. The IC Community Engagement Team leads the development and execution of Indigenous engagement and collaboration plans and focuses on community-led partnerships. They are relationship builders who develop and maintain trusted relationships with Indigenous communities, economic development organizations and Indigenous businesses to ensure that the needs of our Indigenous customers are truly understood.

Jennifer Campeau is a Senior Manager on the IC Community Engagement Team and she shared her thoughts on the importance of National Indigenous History Month, and what her new team means to her.

What does this team mean to you, both professionally and personally? 

As someone who is also an educator and has worked in the Indigenous education space, this work is meaningful and affects the quality of life of Indigenous communities at the grassroots level. We are actively working on closing the gap of the digital divide in underserved and Indigenous communities.  This work is highly impactful to how Indigenous communities can access education, training, and business development opportunities. It will also allow for the work of cultural, and language preservation and access to innovation and other avenues of supporting these types of initiatives. 

What does National Indigenous History Month mean to you? 

It is an opportunity to showcase and highlight the history of colonization of this country, and its direct negative effects, through the adoption of the Indian Act, and the implementation of the Residential Schools, loss of language and culture, to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) Calls to Action and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), but also an opportunity to celebrate the strengths and richness of culture within Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. This is an opportunity to learn about the culture and practises of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples, and that can be expressed through ceremony, storytelling, art, dance, music and sharing of food. It is also important to learn about which Indigenous hosts are tied to the land, and we do land acknowledgements to remind us of this.

Is there someone from the Indigenous Community, past or present, that inspires you? 

Roberta Jamieson always comes to mind when I am asked this, she is a woman of many “firsts”, the first Indigenous woman to earn a law degree, first woman to be the Ontario ombudsman and many other examples.

She recently retired as the CEO of Indspire, which is an Indigenous-led charity which funds the education of Indigenous post-secondary students and celebrates Indigenous excellence. She also positively affected the studies of more than 42,000 Indigenous students during her tenure. The ripple effect of the work she did to benefit students adds to the quality of life and economic security throughout their lives.  She is wildly sought out for collaboration, advising, and is currently the co-chair of the Canadian National Railway (CN)’s new Indigenous Advisory Council, and is on the board of directors at Deloitte Canada.  She is definitely a role model within the Indigenous space.

What words of inspiration would you say to young Indigenous children of today?

To remind them that they have a place in our society, that they are loved, valued, special and come from a culturally rich background, and that they deserve a good quality of life. This is called “Mino-Bimadiziiwin” which in Anishnaabe can be translated into “the good life.” Every generation strives to do better than the last, I think that we need to actively listen to what their needs are and ensure that we leave this place better than we found it. We also need to remember those who came before us, and what they endured so we could be here.