Challenging Safe Ideas: Dr. Tracey Lindberg Examines Reconciliation at VIU's Second Annual Indigenous Speakers Series

Dr. Tracey Lindberg appears at VIU’s Indigenous Speakers Series on Nov. 22.

November 2, 2016 - 11:00am

The academic and writer will speak at the presentation, one of Reconciliation Road’s keynote events

An accomplished Cree academic and writer will explore the complexities of reconciliation at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) upcoming Indigenous Speakers Series.

Dr. Tracey Lindberg – who teaches Indigenous law at the University of Ottawa and recently published her debut novel, Birdie – will speak at the second annual event, delivered in partnership with the Laurier Institution and CBC Radio One’s Ideas. Her talk, entitled (W)rec(k)-onciliation: Indigenous Lands and Peoples' Respect, Reciprocity and Relationships, is presented by VIU’s Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation.

“I’m going to look at the notion of reconciliation not as a starting point, but as a measure of the health of relationships,” she says. “Reconciliation is supported by a lot of other concepts. I’m going to talk about reconciliation with self, reconciliation with community, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. And then addressing reconciliation with Canada.”

Her approach is lauded by Douglas White, Director of the Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation. “When we were discussing whom we should approach for this year’s speakers series, the committee decided it wanted someone who could speak to reconciliation through the lens of story – connecting in a different way with our communities,” says White. “Dr. Tracey Lindberg will do just that – speaking through the arts, literature and story to reach out to the hearts of our national audience in a way that prompts us all to reflect and grow together in the spirit of reconciliation."

Lindberg, a member of the Kelly Lake Cree Nation in BC, is thought to be the first Aboriginal woman in Canada to complete a graduate law degree from Harvard University and receive a doctorate in law from a Canadian university (the University of Ottawa). In 2007, she received the Governor General’s Award for her dissertation, entitled Critical Indigenous Legal Theory.

Her bio refers to her as “next in a long line of argumentative Cree women,” a description that Lindberg endorses. “We were born to lead and govern our people,” she says. “Women play a role in the development of healthy relationships, and healthy relationships are the basis of good governance. You can’t be quiet when you are dealing with issues related to the health and wellness of your community.”

She’s also keen to explore what sort of action reconciliation can inspire. “What we always hope for is to challenge staid or safe ideas,” she says. “I want to talk to people about what does reconciliation do. If it’s an active verb, what are some of the steps we have to take to be able to participate in it?”

Lindberg’s talents extend beyond academia. Birdie, her first novel, was published last year; she’s also a blues music singer (“I sang the blues as a diversion from law school,” she quips).

The Indigenous Speakers Series is part of VIU’s Reconciliation Road, a collection of events and activities that addresses the challenge of reconciliation between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

“We are honoured to have Dr. Tracey Lindberg as our keynote speaker at VIU’s second annual Indigenous Speakers Series,” says Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “We know that education must play a critical role in the reconciliation process. The speakers series reflects this – it’s an opportunity for our community to come together; to listen and learn about reconciliation from the perspective of prominent speakers such as Professor Lindberg; and then take those insights and use them to foster dialogue, understanding and action on this challenging and critical topic.”

Farid Rohani, Chair of the Laurier Institution – a founding partner of VIU’s Indigenous Speakers Series – says it’s a great honour to be associated with the event.

“This series is introducing the gems of First Nations thought, culture and philosophies to the Canadian audience,” he says. “First Nations culture is a unique treasure we as Canadians have, and one we must strive to see the brilliance of through such dialogues.” 

The second annual Indigenous Speakers Series takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 22 from 7 pm to 10 pm (including reception and book signing) at VIU’s Malaspina Theatre (Nanaimo campus). To register for this event, visit here.

To learn more about Reconciliation Road, visit



Communications and Public Engagement, Vancouver Island University

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