Meet the new Executive Lead - Indigenization

By Costa Maragos Posted: June 21, 2016 10:00 a.m.

Emily Grafton takes on her new job as Executive Lead – Indigenization on June 27.
Emily Grafton takes on her new job as Executive Lead – Indigenization on June 27. Photo courtesy of Margaret Kierylo

On this, National Aboriginal Day, we wish to introduce the University of Regina’s new Executive Lead – Indigenization, Emily Grafton.  

Grafton is a member of the Métis Nation and has spent considerable time working with Indigenous communities during her nine years as a researcher in academic, government and non-governmental organization environments.

She has worked most recently as a cultural diversity and Aboriginal relations advisor for the City of Regina and as a researcher-curator for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. She was a consultant for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs for four years, where she wrote strategic plans and funding proposals for many projects related to the health of Indigenous peoples.

Grafton has a BA in Political Science and Women's Studies from the University of Winnipeg and aMaster of Public Administration from the University of Manitoba. She is nearing completion of her PhD in Native Studies from the University of Manitoba.
We spoke with Ms. Grafton about her new position.
How did you feel the moment you heard you got the position at the U of R?

Gratitude. A lot of people have believed in me and supported me along the way.
What are you looking forward to the most in this position?

I’m looking forward to a position that bridges university and community. To me, universities represent critical thinking and positive, creative energy. Community is the backbone of momentum for change. A position that bridges two dynamic sources of critical change will likely make for a really inspirational place to work. As well, I think I’m going to learn a lot in this position, but also find a place that I can offer my skills and knowledge, a place where they will be put to good use.

What are you hoping to accomplish?

I’ve worked in this field for some years and I’ve seen the real change that can arise from Indigenization. It’s incremental and takes enormous patience, but over time small change becomes big. I’m hoping to, in some way, be a part of change.

How do you feel about the strides the U of R has taken in the area of Indigenization?

I think the university has taken big strides towards Indigenization. But, I once heard decolonialism explained as a continuum, not an end point. While much has been done, there is much more to do. This explanation is, for me, really important. I like to frame my actions according to it. It reminds me of the many acts of resistance and resilience that Indigenous peoples have made prior to today.

These efforts have made it possible to work under a model of Indigenization and the process of reconciliation that is presently at work throughout Canada. It also provides me with motivation and encouragement in the face of adversity. No one act will overcome the impacts of colonialism, but together and overtime many efforts accumulate into real change.
Indigenization is complex and I suspect that how the concept is understood and implemented at the U of R has evolved and will continue to evolve. I look forward to being a part of this growth at the university.

Emily Grafton begins her role as Executive Lead – Indigenization on June 27. She replaces Dr. Shauneen Pete, who will continue in her position as Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education.