Statement from Shawn Atleo, Shqwi qwal for Indigenous Dialogue

October 30, 2014 - 4:30pm

I’m honoured to be taking on the important role of Shqwi qwal for Indigenous Dialogue at Vancouver Island University, appropriately housed in the Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation. I would like to thank Ralph Nilson, VIU’s President, and Doug White, Director of the Centre, for their leadership and vision in helping to make this role become a reality. 

Indeed for many years, VIU has taken a leadership role in recognizing the importance of building partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous people. VIU’s support for this role is simply another example of their exceptional leadership in this area.

I want to be very clear that one of the reasons I agreed to take on the important role of Shqwi qwal or “Speaker” is that it is grounded within academia. Because of this, the Shqwi qwal – no matter who is in this role – will enjoy the ability to act independently and to exercise academic freedom of thought, discourse and speech - encouraging open and forthright dialogue among all sectors of society. Moreover, the Shqwi qual is framed within our proud First Nation governance traditions enabling exploration and understanding of the continued relevance and centrality of indigenous values and perspectives. 

As Shqwi qwal I will be engaging people from all different sectors of society in conversations - conversations that can bring forward new information in new ways that help us to move forward, towards a place of true reconciliation. The academic environment creates a complimentary and supportive path for dialogue as freedom of speech, debate and difficult dialogues are welcomed and indeed encouraged. I’d like to thank the Premier for recognizing the importance of ensuring the Shqwi qwal has this independence. Both the framing and situating within an academic environment will ensure the initiative focuses on innovative ways to work through long-standing issues.

It was a great day today and I’m excited about the opportunities. I’m looking forward to spending time with the leaders and the learners at VIU and across BC and for beginning the important and challenging work of the Shqwi qwal.


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