Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, independent indigenous scholar, author and artist is another new face joining the Ryerson community. She has been recruited as distinguished visiting professor and will be joining the department of sociology in the Faculty of Arts for a one-year term.
With over 20 years of experience in indigenous-based education, Simpson will be extending her knowledge to the school. Her plan is to support indigenous students and build connections throughout Ryerson.
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
A: I am a Michi Saagiig (Mississauga) Nishnaabeg intellectual, writer, educator and artist. I am a member of Alderville First Nation. I have a PhD from the University of Manitoba. My academic work focuses on indigenous resurgence, nationhood, politics and gender. I work from within Nishnaabeg intellectual practices. I have been an independent scholar by choice for over 15 years.
Q: Why did you choose Ryerson?
A: Ryerson chose me! I was approached by Alan Sears from the sociology department about coming to Ryerson as a distinguished visiting professor. Ryerson was very supportive of my work.
Q: What are your plans at Ryerson? What do you hope to accomplish working here?
A: First and foremost, I hope to support indigenous students, faculty and staff at Ryerson. I am interested in listening to them and learning about their experiences here. I’m interested in sharing my work with them and the wider Ryerson community. I am also interested in building connections with the Black academic and activist community in Toronto, who are doing some phenomenal work in the form of Black Lives Matter, not to mention their incredible intellectual contributions to my understanding of things like capitalism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy and colonialism. I’m interested in continuing to connect myself to the land Toronto sits upon, because it is part of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg territory.
Q: How else do you plan to contribute to the school?
A: Well, the first thing I think I need to do is to listen to the experiences and perspectives of indigenous students and faculty, and to share my work and perspectives with the Ryerson community. Then, I think together we’ll figure out how I can best contribute.
Q: What do you think of current indigenous curriculum at Ryerson or in schools now?
A: In Canada, curriculum needs to substantially include indigenous perspectives in every subject at every level, on terms that are acceptable to indigenous peoples. I should not have university students coming into my classes at a first or fourth-year level, not knowing whose territory they are on, having little understanding of colonialism and being shocked to learn about the current relationship between indigenous peoples and the state. Our curriculum needs to better prepare students for life and that means revamping curriculum from kindergarten to graduate school.
It also means listening to indigenous students and faculty and responding to their concerns with empathy, care and action. We need to create learning environments that celebrate indigenous brilliance, and that means a different allocation of resources, and doing things differently. It means hiring full time indigenous faculty in all disciplines and supporting our intellectual practices, which may look different than traditional academics.
Q: What sort of issues do you want to tackle on indigeneity?
A: I’m interested in gender and Two Spirit/Queer issues on campus. I’m interested in transforming the university community into one that is safer and more supportive of BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of colour) students. There is already a lot of really important work going on in this community on those issues, and I want to acknowledge the years of hard work that have gone into creating and holding space for indigenous peoples at universities.
Q: Do you hope these issues will be improved after your stay?
A: I hope that I can make things a little better for indigenous students.