For UWindsor alumna Andrea Landry MA ’13, the very act of attending a university presented an issue for her: how to reconcile earning her degree at a “colonial institution” while feeling she had let her own Indigenous heritage lapse.
“To find reconciliation with myself in regards to chasing my colonial education, rather than making the time to learn my mother- tongue, I had to redefine my own version of success,” she says. “I was successful in the realm of academia at the time, however, how could I make myself successful with myself, as an Indigenous person?”
Landry is Anishinaabe, originally from Pays Plat First Nation in Ontario. She has built a life on Treaty 6 territory in Poundmaker Cree Nation, in Saskatchewan.
She earned her master’s degree in communications and social justice at UWindsor. For her major research project, she analyzed CBC’s coverage of key events that portray indigenous struggle: the 1969 White Paper, the Oka Crisis and Idle No More.
In the end, Landry made the decision to return to her roots after she earned her degree. “All it came down to was going home. My homelands are my success, as they have laid my foundation for me since before I was born, and have laid my daughter’s foundation down for her.
“(Success) is when one knows that all that they need is their connection to the land. Because without the land, we are nothing.”
Today, Landry teaches native studies and political science at the University of Saskatchewan in the course, “Introduction to Canadian Indigenous Studies”.
“There is always that point in time where the decision has to be made whether one will cater to the system and teach students to do the same, or to go against the system and teach others what freedom looks like.” Andrea Landry
“The thing that I enjoy most about teaching Indigenous Studies and Political Science,” she says, “is that I can provide the space for exploratory discussions in the areas of colonialism, oppression, and white privilege for students.”
She says it is through these discussions and conversations that the deconstruction of “such challenging vices” can then begin to happen, “therefore inviting in the real conversations of Indigenous resurgence, sovereignty and nationhood.”
Landry says her academic role comes with challenges: “It is difficult to have healthy, meaningful dialogue about Indigenous resurgence and nationhood when the system one is working under focuses solely on the successes that come with oppression and colonialism.
“There is always that point in time where the decision has to be made whether one will cater to the system and teach students to do the same, or to go against the system and teach others what freedom looks like.”
In the past year, announcements have been made about instituting Indigenous studies as mandatory at some Canadian universities. Landry, however, says that, “A mandatory class will not end racism, colonialism, oppression, or societal divisions,” she says. “That work has to come from within an individual.”
Landry is a former youth executive for the National Association of Friendship Centres and North American Representative for the United Nations Global Indigenous Youth Caucus. Through the work, she has spoken up to world leaders and governments about the injustices in which Indigenous peoples face in Canada, as well as globally.
At the 2013 World Conference of Indigenous Women in Lima, Peru, Landry spoke on issues of colonial vs. Indigenous ideologies regarding sovereignty and nationhood. “We are defining ourselves based on the federal government and colonial thought. We’ve reached a bridge, and its time to go back to our old ways in a sense, but also build up those old ways and make sure they work today.”
She is also a former therapist for Thunderchild First Nation and now does the same work in other communities. “This work is more so uplifting as you become the one who facilitates life-changing evolution in young people and individuals alike. It is through this work that communities can dissolve their issues of drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and everything else that came with the conquest of colonialism.”
Landry’s number one issue is violence against native women. “I became heavily politically involved in the issue of violence against Indigenous Women due to my own personal circumstances of being involved in an abusive relationship which ended in rape when I was 20 years old,” she says. “It was from there where I began to speak up about my story through the different avenues that I was involved in at the time. I eventually began to share my story at the international level in the UN. It was there where I recognized the severity of the issue at hand on a global scale, as Indigenous women around the world shared very similar stories.”
Landry says that what drives her is “building a better future for my daughter, and my future children. What drives me is to continue the legacy of my late mother. What drives me is love. I have been passionate for what I believe in since I was young and it stems from watching my mother’s passion in the face of injustice. It was through that where I recognized my own passion.”