Yukon University's new research chair in Indigenous Knowledge has big plans

·2 min read
Jocelyn Joe-Strack is the first ever research chair in Indigenous Knowledge at Yukon University. 'I'm hoping to change the Yukon,' she says. (Photo by Mike Rudyk. - image credit)
Jocelyn Joe-Strack is the first ever research chair in Indigenous Knowledge at Yukon University. 'I'm hoping to change the Yukon,' she says. (Photo by Mike Rudyk. - image credit)

Daqualama Jocelyn Joe-Strack laughed when she was asked what she plans to do with her new role at Yukon University.

"I'm hoping to change the Yukon."

Joe-Strack has been named the research chair in Indigenous Knowledge at the university's new Two-Eyed Seeing Research Program.

The program is a partnership between Yukon University, the University of Alberta North and the Yukon Government. Essentially, it will weave Indigenous values and practices through other educational practices.

Joe-Strack, a member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, said she wants to use her role to revitalize Yukon's storytelling culture.

Laura Howells/CBC
Laura Howells/CBC

After earning a degree in microbiology and biochemistry from the University of Victoria, and a Master's in Northern Resources and Environmental Studies from the University of Northern British Columbia, Joe-Strack now calls herself a "scientist in recovery."

"Science is so siloed and narrow in its approach to understanding the world," she said. "In fact, the act of scientific research usually delves into very minute, very specific interactions between two chemicals sometimes.

"Whereas when I see so much need in our communities (to deal with) questions like climate change and inequity, my energy is pulled to where I feel I can help the most."

Joe-Strack said she now uses her "science mind" to think hard about the state of our society, and how "we have removed pieces of ourselves" from both the boardroom and the classroom.

"Indigenous teachings, our stories and the lessons from our elders, show us that spirit and heart, being emotionally competent, is at the core of being human and essential for our healing journey."

The work has already begun.

Thirteen young people from across the territory are part of a fellowship developing a climate action plan centred around Indigenous knowledge and teachings. Joe-Strack joked those young people already refer to her as "Auntie Josie," and she's as proud of that as she is of her academic achievements.

"I really believe that if we heard and experienced the stories as they were intended, as a regular part of our lives, I truly believe that the teachings and the broadening of our worldview, and having lessons brought to our time of need no matter where we're at in our journey, I really think it would help our society with things like climate change and inequity and so many things that plague our society today."

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