Camosun's Dawn Smith Is the First to Defend Doctoral Dissertation in Traditional Territory

"What I like best about Camosun College, is that we practice what we preach," says Dawn Smith, Camosun's Indigenization and Sustainability Strategist, who recently became the first person in Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia to defend her thesis in her traditional Nuu-chah-nulth territory near Port Alberni.

"We don't just talk about integrating Indigenous ways of knowing and being, we do it!"

Smith, a new EdD graduate in UBC's Educational Policy and Leadership program, focussed her doctoral thesis on the "epistemological collisions" in the classroom experienced by Indigenous educators teaching Indigenous topics to mostly non-Indigenous learners. The unique doctoral defence "on the land" opened with a special prayer to ancestors to bear witness, while Smith was surrounded by supportive family, friends and Camosun colleagues.

Sybil Harrison, Camosun's Director of Learning Services, felt privileged to attend Smith's doctoral defense. "Everyone there felt a sense of enormous sense of pride and gratitude. Four generations of her family and her ancestors were there with us and it was an honour to witness this important event and to hear Dawn's thoughtful and passionate defense of her doctoral work, " she says. "Our collective journey towards reconciliation is about challenging the things we've always done, the colonial traditions that no longer are relevant. Situating scholarship on the land is fundamental to indigenizing our institutions."

Smith loves working at Camosun and is passionate about her work. "My role here at Camosun, is to help faculty to Indigenize their curriculum, or integrate sustainability. Faculty members interested in Indigenization have likely also taken TELŦIN TŦE WILNEW (TTW), as a first step in understanding Indigenous peoples," she says. "I'm not here to tell faculty how to Indigenize, but guide what the work they've come up with themselves in terms of Indigenization or sustainability."

Harrison has many words of praise for Smith's work at Camosun. "Her work is both practical and transformative, and is based in her ability to make good relationships across the college," she says. "She is a fantastic colleague--smart, caring, open to share her knowledge and experiences. She's helped me understand what my role as an ally can be."

Reflecting on how her varied experiences and educational journey, both formal and informal, has shaped her life, Smith is grateful for the strong support of the Camosun community. "I attribute much of my recent learnings of Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation to the experiences provided to me here by Camosun College," says Smith. "For that I will always be grateful, kleco (thank you)."

For more information, read the UBC story: "Indigenous student is the first to defend her dissertation off-campus and on the land"

Original article from Camosun College