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Trent University Introduces Mohawk Faithkeeper


Skahendowaneh Swamp as Inaugural Chair in Indigenous Knowledge

Thursday, March 5, 2009, Peterborough

Trent University is pleased to announce that Mohawk Faithkeeper Skahendowaneh (pronounced ska-hen-DOEwan- ay) Swamp has been appointed the inaugural Chair in Indigenous Knowledge – a new position that will bring worldwide attention to the University’s already renowned Indigenous Studies program.

Originally from Akwesasne, Mr. Swamp is highly respected for his knowledge of Aboriginal languages and cultural traditions and has spent many years teaching in various communities in Ontario and Quebec.

Prior to coming to Trent, he taught soapstone carving and painting through the Akwesasne Child and Family Services where he worked as a traditional support worker. At Trent he also gave lectures on aspects of culture, dancing, stories, and traditional teachings. Before that, he lived on Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario for four years with his wife, who is an Oneida from this community. At Six Nations he taught the Mohawk language, music and art in Native studios at the Kawenní:io/Gawení:yo High School, which he described as a challenge because there were no textbooks, requiring him to be creative and develop new teaching skills which he continues to use at Trent. In addition to his fluency in Mohawk, Mr. Swamp also understands Oneida, Cayuga and Onondaga, and can read Seneca.

“I’m passionate about preserving and passing our traditions on,” said Mr. Swamp. In this new role at Trent, he will be actively involved in research and in transmitting Indigenous knowledge to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as to departmental and university colleagues. In addition, as chair Mr. Swamp will be involved in several cultural and ceremonial facets of the Indigenous Studies program and the wider community.

“I put a lot of energy into what I teach my students, and make myself available for them for discussions outside of class time,” explained Mr. Swamp, who sees being there for students as his first priority. “For what I teach, it’s really important to have a relationship with students and to have open communication with them.”

Mr. Swamp is teaching two undergraduate classes in Indigenous Studies, as well as a course for Trent’s distinguished Ph.D. program, the first doctoral program in Indigenous Studies in Canada. In his classes, students are asked to interpret their understanding of Aboriginal teachings using traditional forms of expression, such as wampum belt weaving or carving, in addition to conventional essays and text-based assignments.

Last year, the Indigenous Studies Department announced the creation of this breakthrough new position which represents the first academic chair of its kind in Canada to be awarded to a native Elder or traditional person. Trent’s Board of Governors approved the establishment of a Chair in Indigenous Knowledge in February 2008.

"I am very pleased to welcome Skahendowaneh Swamp as Trent’s inaugural Chair in Indigenous Knowledge,” said Trent University President Bonnie Patterson. “Graduate and undergraduate students alike will benefit immensely from Mr. Swamp’s extraordinary knowledge and strong teaching ability. His appointment reflects Trent’s leadership in Aboriginal education as a university that continues to value and honour traditional knowledge within the academy.”

“It is excellent that the University is embracing the desire of Aboriginal communities to have Indigenous Knowledge taught to students who will then share this knowledge with their communities in the future,” said Professor David Newhouse, chair of the Indigenous Studies Department.

Trent University was the first university in North America to establish a department dedicated to the study of Aboriginal Peoples. Established in 1969 as the Indian-Eskimo Studies program and later in 1972 as the Department of Native Studies, the program led the way for other programs in Canada. In 2006, the department changed its name to Indigenous Studies. In 1997, the department initiated the first Native Studies Ph.D. program in Canada, with the first students entering the program in September 1999. The first doctorate degrees in Native Studies were awarded by the Trent University Senate in May 2005. In 2004, a Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Arts and Literatures was established. The first holder of this position is Trent University professor Marrie Mumford, formerly the director of Aboriginal programs at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Additional information about Trent’s Indigenous Studies program is available at: www.trentu.ca/indigenousstudies.

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For more information contact:
Brittany Cadence, Communications Officer at (705) 748-1011, ext. 6185