At the Fall Convocation ceremony on October 17, Shirley Cheechoo was installed as Brock University’s first female and aboriginal Chancellor.
“I accepted this position because I am an educator and I do a lot of work with youth. I thought that this would be a good position to have in order to keep my work going with the youth and be engaged in a wider community,” said Cheechoo.
As Chancellor, Cheechoo is responsible for presiding over convocation and presenting graduates with their degrees. As the figure-head of the university, she is looking forward to the opportunity to have her voice heard and continue to work on her legacy.
“My voyage has been to have a voice in the world and to help youth find their voice,” said Cheechoo. “I still struggle to get my voice out there, but I believe that this role has come at the perfect time.”
Cheechoo is passionate about bringing First Nation history into the classrooms and hopes to recruit aboriginal students into Brock and helping them through this transitional period. She has a strong feeling that the Brock community will be receptive to her goals and help her accomplish them.
“I have to believe in the universe that I will take the right path. I will take this position a day at a time and see where it leads,” said Cheechoo
Julian Kitchen, Director of the Tecumseh Centre for Aboriginal Research and Education, also felt very positive about Cheechoo’s appointment.
“The appointment of Shirley Cheechoo as Chancellor of Brock University was bold and visionary. It signals a commitment to engaging Indigenous students and communities. Her appointment also challenges us to grow our programs, expand our services, and extend our outreach,” said Kitchen in a statement.
“I am proud to be part of a university that has the wisdom to appoint not only its first woman Chancellor but an indigenous person. At this moment in Canadian history, and in the light of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation report, this is a symbolically powerful move that signals a growing attention at Brock to indigenous and First Nations issues,” said Andrea Doucet, professor of Sociology/Women & Gender Studies.
Currently, Cheechoo is running the Weengushk Film Institute on Manitoulin Island. She is also working on her next film project which will be a romantic comedy about a German woman who moves to Canada after her husband died, and meets a recently divorced aboriginal woman. Together they go on a journey of discovery about the culture of aboriginal people.
Cheechoo’s passion for youth is evident, and she has an empowering message to share with Brock students.
“I believe that this generation of students are the ones that are going to make change,” said Cheechoo. “We have a lot to restore and rebuild, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work and education to make that happen. We need leaders to protect all voices. Students have to step up before it’s too late. Sometimes they think they have no voice and they’re afraid to say something. Don’t wait for someone else to make changes.”
Internal News Editor