For years before landing a job as manager at the Aboriginal Gathering Place (AGP) this past November, Kajola Morewood (BFA 2011) had wanted to work there.
The artist, educator and ECU alum worked in several departments at Emily Carr over 25 years. More recently, she worked as Indigenous initiatives and services librarian at Okanagan College. But she always remembered her first interactions with Brenda Crabtree, director of Aboriginal Programs at ECU and Special Advisor to the President on Indigenous Initiatives.
“She was so welcoming,” Kajola tells me. “She was always saying, come into this space, learn more about your culture. Because I didn’t really have a lot of that. So, I feel like she kind of changed my life.”
Kajola, whose birth mother is Inuit, grew up in a settler family between Southern Alberta and BC. She had little understanding of Inuit culture as a child. What little she knew, she learned through videos, books or presentations in school.
Brenda encouraged Kajola to foster her curiosity about her culture. In Kajola’s early days as a staff member in Student Services, Brenda helped her secure time off for a trip along the coast of Baffin Island. For the first time, Kajola saw landscapes like her mother might have known growing up in Kuujjuarapik. She also met some of the people who lived there.
In one community, Kajola visited a school gym where students were hip-hop dancing and eating country food. One of the students approached her and said he and his classmates thought she looked Inuit.
“I said, yeah, I am. He said, where do you live? I said Vancouver, and he was like, what are you doing there?” Kajola recalls.
“It was pretty cool to be recognized in that way. Because that doesn’t happen so much here. So, having the opportunity to make that trip was pretty incredible.”
This experience was an early introduction to the power of reconnecting with community.
The aspiration to share this experience with others has defined Kajola’s work. And it has deepened her exploration of the many ways Indigenous people encounter — and bridge — versions of the cultural disconnection she experienced.
Read the full article on ECU News.