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Recognizing and understanding fundamental Indigenous relationships Prof. Kim Anderson

Prof. Kim Anderson has followed a winding path of opportunities as a writer, researcher and storyteller that has led her, so far, to the role of associate professor in U of G’s Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition. “There are lots of ways to engage in community-based research – we don’t all come from academia,” says Anderson, who started her PhD after running her own research and writing consulting business for fifteen years.

Indigenous peoples and gender equity

Anderson’s understanding of gender equity has been informed by the history of Indigenous peoples. She acknowledges that equity within Indigenous communities was commonplace before it was dismantled by colonialism.

“Indigenous communities’ strength was in gender equity in which everyone had responsibilities,” she says.

For Anderson, there is value in reconstructing these principles and incorporating them into our current way of life. This practice is enhanced by working with queer theory and contemporary movements around gender nonconformity, all of which help in formulating long-term commitments to gender equity.

The influence of relationships

Anderson’s work involves exploring family relationships and their meaning, particularly through an Indigenous lens.

She has published seven books that address gender and Indigenous peoples, including Keetsahnak: Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous SistersKeetsahnak began as a companion piece to Walking with Our Sisters, a collaborative art installation of moccasin beadwork representing the unfinished lives of Indigenous women. “We wanted to do a complementary text that focused on the roots of gender-based violence from an Indigenous perspective,” says Anderson. The Keetsahnak anthology amplifies the experiences and anti-violence work of more than 30 contributors.

More recently, Anderson has been thinking about the relationships people have with land, especially with regard to land-based practices. She co-leads the Indigenous Task Force at the University of Guelph, which provides opportunities for a new, mindful understanding of people’s connections to the space they occupy on campus.

“Finding ways to do land-based learning involves encouraging individuals to develop relationships with the land and the natural world so that we love and protect it more,” she says. “Working with students is one way to get them involved.”

Anderson plans to continue this practice by collaborating with other researchers to build a grannies’ cabin — a research site for creative work, ceremony, food and medicine gardens and relationship building.

Anderson’s work has earned her the position of Canada Research Chair for Indigenous Relationships.

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