As classes resume at Western this term, four new Indigenous faculty members bring their expertise to the faculties of education, social science and media and information studies.
The university’s investment in these new roles is in line with Western’s Indigenous Strategic Plan and its goal to increase Indigenous voices and presence across campus.
The new Indigenous faculty members, who joined Western in July, are: Spy Dénommé-Welch (Algonquin-Anishinaabe); Cody Groat (Kanyen’kehaka citizen and band member of the Six Nations of the Grand River); Sally Kewayosh (Bkejwanong Territory, Walpole Island First Nation); and Sofia Locklear (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina with roots in Kenora, Ontario).
Sounds of the land
Dénommé-Welch, the new associate professor in the Faculty of Education, wears many hats: interdisciplinary scholar, educator and artist. He also joins Western as the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, Knowledge Systems and Education.
He recently completed a two-year SSHRC-IDG funded research project that examined gender representation and expression in historical music and cultural production. Through his exploratory creation/sound lab, Dénommé-Welch’s current work includes the projects Sonic Coordinates: Decolonizing through Land-based music comp
osition (funded by the New Frontiers Research Fund program) and Repatriating music, sound and knowledge through a series of miniatures, which investigate the epistemologies of music composition, sonic expression and visual text.
“You learn a lot from being on the land,” Dénommé-Welch said. “You’ll hear different sounds because there are different trees, different habitats and different wildlife. I see the land as being a fellow musician. It’s informing, but it also shapes my thinking as a musician.”
Dénommé-Welch creates and produces work in music, opera and theatre. He is the artistic director of Unsettled Scores, an independent performing arts production company he co-founded with Catherine Magowan. In the video below, he and Magowan explain the story behind their composition, Spin Doctors, as performed by the Georgian Bay Symphony.
Bridging the history gap
In the Faculty of Social Science, Groat is assistant professor in the department of history and the Indigenous studies program.
With a father who survived the ‘60s scoop and grandparents who survived the Mohawk Institute Residential School, Groat did not have a strong connection to his Indigenous culture growing up. But his PhD research put him on a path to discover his own identity.
Now he’s welcoming the opportunity to bring knowledge of Indigenous cultural stewardship to Western’s public history program and the broader community.
“Public history does not really reflect what is happening in Indigenous communities,” Groat said. “It’s exciting that there’s a chance to re-envision it.”
Groat is currently giving virtual presentations on residential schools and reconciliation, with the next one scheduled for September 30 to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. He recently shared aspects of his talk on CBC Afternoon Drive. He is also a strong advocate for renaming London’s Ryerson elementary school.
Along with his academic work, Groat serves on the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Advisory Committee for the Memory of the World Program. He is also the president of the Indigenous Heritage Circle, an organization dedicated to advancing the cultural heritage priorities of the Métis, Inuit and First Nations Peoples in Canada.
“There is so much in Indigenous cultural history that is not in academic public history,” Groat said. “I am working to bridge that gap.”
Teacher and filmmaker
Kewayosh, BA’04, says she is very excited to be returning to her alma mater to teach, as the new lecturer in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies (FIMS).
“It feels a bit like a homecoming and a nice ‘full-circle moment,’” she said. “I can’t wait to meet the students.”
After earning her degree in film studies from Western, Kewayosh earned a Master of Fine Arts in film production from the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.
She’s looking forward to teaching filmmaking techniques, including story development, screenwriting and hands-on film production, while also providing an important link to the professional filmmaking industry and the festival circuit.
“I’ve been in education for the greater part of my adult life, first as a teacher’s assistant with children from junior kindergarten through grade eight, where I really found a passion for teaching and mentoring. I really enjoy helping and witnessing students of all ages realize their potential and goals. Now with postsecondary students, I’ll be seeing the first steps of these students’ adult lives and helping to send them off with knowledge I helped impart. I just find that to be a great privilege,” Kewayosh said.
As a First Nations filmmaker with more than 15 years of experience as a visual storyteller, Kewayosh tells Indigenous stories through her perspective as a member of a marginalized community. In the video below, she discusses the premise of her current project, and its strong personal ties, with this writer.
Another addition to FIMS’ faculty, Locklear comes to Western from the University of New Mexico, where she recently completed her doctoral degree requirements in sociology. She is a recipient of the American Sociological Association’s minority fellowship, as well as the University of New Mexico’s critical race scholar award.
She brings a wide breadth of experience to her role as assistant professor, including public health research skills gained at the Urban Health Institute, a tribal epidemiology centre serving urban Native communities across the United States.
Locklear said she is, “looking forward to building relationships with the faculty, staff and students in FIMS, creating new community – and finding the best restaurants in town.”
In the video below, she shares details around her research in race, whiteness and the racialization of Indigenous Peoples.
*With files from Rob Rombouts and Becky Blue