Building a University Where All Belong: VIU Chancellor Shares Her Vision with Community

Judith Sayers, Installation speech

Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers, is VIU's third Chancellor.

June 17, 2021 - 11:15am

VIU Chancellor Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers, was formally bestowed with the duties of office in an online ceremony on June 17, 2021.

Making university a place where all can explore, learn, innovate and excel equally, regardless of background or financial circumstances, is what Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) third Chancellor wants to help build.

“Historically, many Indigenous students have struggled in university. Struggled to belong, struggled to feel safe and they have many issues facing them in university including racism, bias and not being able to do their research in the way they want to,” she said. “Education is about learning to think, to communicate, to write and it’s how we participate in the world that we establish. We need to encourage more students to come into the university. We need to make it a place where they want to come.”

Following in the footsteps of VIU President Dr. Deborah Saucier, who was installed in the Snuneymuxw First Nation longhouse in November 2019, much of Sayers’ installation was pre-recorded outdoors and hosted by the Good family on the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

The virtual broadcast on June 17, 2021, included an introduction from Snuneymuxw Councillor Emmy Manson, and video messages from government officials and students. Snuneymuxw Councillor, VIU alumus and former VIU Board of Governors member Bill Yoachim acted as speaker. COVID-19 health and safety protocols prevented the University from making it an in-person affair.

VIU’s new ceremonial regalia, designed by Coast Salish clothing and art company Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design for President Saucier and Chancellor Sayers to wear at convocation ceremonies, was also unveiled during the event.

Robes for the President and Chancellor designed by Ay Lelum

“These regalia fuse the formality of traditional convocation ceremony robes with beautiful elements of Coast Salish art, culture, history and tradition,” said Aunalee Boyd-Good, co-owner of Ay Lelum, who introduced the regalia and, with immediate family members, robed the Chancellor and President. “It’s an honour and a privilege to be involved in this monumental, historical and ground-breaking project.”

The regalia was designed and made by three generations in the Good family. On top of project management by Boyd-Good and her sister, Sophia Seward-Good, their mother, Sandra Moorhouse-Good was lead designer on the robes; their niece, Thea Harris, wove the headbands; and her father, William Good, and brother, Joel Good, carved wooden frontlets on the headbands and the button fasteners on the front of the robes.

The President’s robe features sea serpents on the front – symbols of power and wisdom – and a supernatural eagle on the back, which symbolizes strength and wisdom. The Chancellor’s robe also features sea serpents on the front and on the back is a supernatural killer whale – designed to honour Sayers’ Nuu-chah-nulth heritage – and a supernatural eagle, figures that bring strength, power and vision. 

“I want to wear Coast Salish designs that reflect their culture, because the university campusesare in the Coast Salish territory,” explained Sayers.

Sayers, who is President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and has a long history of Indigenous rights and sustainable development advocacy, said when she was first approached with the opportunity to be Chancellor, she thought long and hard about how she could contribute before saying yes. What tipped the scales was the strong relationships VIU has built with the Indigenous communities it serves. She is excited to lend her energy, knowledge and expertise to help VIU “continue to push the boundaries of what a university is, what is studied, how it is studied, and even where it is studied.”

Deb Saucier and Judith Sayers saying the Chancellor oath of office

“In this day and age of reconciliation, VIU has a critical role to play and make positive changes,” said Sayers. “Reconciliation is what Indigenous people want and we need to take their lead in what they see as reconciliation. I believe VIU is committed to reconciliation and can lead the way – as they already are.”

Saucier said the filming of many elements of the broadcast took place on Snuneymuxw territory to pay homage to the deep relationship that has developed between VIU and the Snuneymuxw peoples. She said Sayers will play a key role in helping VIU build a welcoming and inspiring community for all.

“Her commitment to Indigenous rights and promoting capacity-building in First Nations communities directly aligns with and supports VIU’s goal to deepen mutual understanding and to co-create new, innovative partnerships and programming with local Nations,” said Saucier. “Dr. Sayers also sets an important example that things can be done differently, and that communities can prosper while ensuring a healthy environment for us all. I look forward to her contributions to the Indigenization of VIU.”

For more information about Chancellor Sayers, visit viu.ca/chancellor.

-30-

Media Contact:

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Advisor, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: Jenn.McGarrigle@viu.ca | T: @VIUNews


Tags: Community Engagement | Indigenous | Announcements