November 17, 2017 - 12:45pm
Gabrielle Scrimshaw will deliver keynote address during the University’s third annual Indigenous Speakers Series on November 20
Indigenous entrepreneur, activist, speaker, writer and academic Gabrielle Scrimshaw was separated from her mother at a young age.
Scrimshaw, a member of the Hatchet Lake First Nation, was only two weeks old when her father took full custody of her, she writes in an editorial column published in the New York Times last June. Her mother, dealing with the weight of her experience in Canada’s residential schools, was unable to care for her in a full capacity. It wasn’t until Scrimshaw had grown up and started to learn the history of her family and Indigenous people across Canada that she was able to link that past with the moment the two of them were separated.
While Scrimshaw spent her youth learning about Canada’s prime ministers, lacking from her education was any sort of mention of the horrors of residential schools. Becoming aware of this gap and learning more about the history of Canada’s systematic policies of assimilation towards Indigenous people spurred her to share her story.
“It’s frightening to me how many people are still unaware of and don’t fully understand the history,” she says. “I use my story as a catalyst to talk about these bigger issues in Canada. I think when people hear statistics or news reports, it’s hard for them to connect the issues with their own sphere of influence. My story is a way to connect with others in a more personal way.”
Scrimshaw will be sharing her story during Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) third annual Indigenous Speakers Series on Monday, November 20. The annual event is a partnership between VIU, The Laurier Institution and CBC Radio One’s Ideas.
During her keynote, called Youth and Reconciliation – the Next 150 Years, she will share the challenges Indigenous youth face, what reconciliation looks like, and how people can engage on that journey.
“There are 400,000 Indigenous youth entering the workforce by 2026,” says Scrimshaw. “There are so many barriers facing them right now, but if we systematically remove those barriers, we have the opportunity to change a generation.”
While Scrimshaw has been successful in the academic, business and advocacy realms, as her story shows, she has experienced some of these barriers. She was the first in her family to attend university, and has now studied international business and policy across six continents. She received her Master of Business Administration from Stanford Graduate School of Business last June, and is set to finish a Master of Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School in 2018.
“At the heart of everything I do, I’m always thinking about, ‘How does my work relate to my community?’” says Scrimshaw. “So many people are unaware of our shared history, and the issues and opportunities ahead of us. I think there’s a lot we can do to raise awareness.”
One way Scrimshaw is doing this is through the written word. She is a regular contributor to national media outlets in both Canada and the United States and she has been profiled by the New York Times, Forbes and the Globe & Mail, among others. She was named the 2013 First Nations Youth Achiever by Indspire, partly for her work in co-founding the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada (APAC) in 2011.
“I wanted there to be a space, a continuation of support for Aboriginal leaders in the community,” says Scrimshaw.
“The Indigenous Speakers Series is excited to have Ms. Scrimshaw providing our annual national lecture this year,” says Douglas White, Director of the Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation. “She is young and dynamic and her inspiring story of resilience and accomplishment serves as an inspiration and shining example of Indigenous youth in this country.”
The Indigenous Speakers Series takes place Monday, November 20 in VIU’s Malaspina Theatre (Building 310 at the Nanaimo Campus) from 7-9 pm. Scrimshaw’s keynote talk will be followed by a question and answer session hosted by Paul Kennedy of CBC Radio One’s Ideas, and also recorded for national broadcast. Complimentary parking is available in Exit 5C off Fifth Street.
To register, visit Eventbrite.
Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University