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About us

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Harvested and carved by Tsawout artist Tom Lafortune with the assistance of Howard LaFortune Jr., the name of this 25-foot-tall pole is “S’ael”, a Sencoten word for harmony. This pole rests at the entrance to the Royal Roads University campus and serves to welcome visitors.   

Harvested and carved by Tsawout artist Tom Lafortune with the assistance of Howard LaFortune Jr., the name of this 25-foot-tall pole is “S’ael”, a Sencoten word for harmony. This pole rests at the entrance to the Royal Roads University campus and serves to welcome visitors.   

Photo credit: Royal Roads University.

At the Royal Roads University (RRU) School of Leadership Studies, we believe that good leadership can transform people and organizations. We facilitate authentic, challenging, collaborative, and engaging learning experiences through our leadership programs and our research initiatives.


The activity described on this site represents the work of a group of Indigenous people and descendants of immigrants* who collaborated at RRU to create a series of experiential educational events intended to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRCC) Calls to Action (Truth & Reconciliation Commission, 2015a). We conceived of this work as an effort not only toward forging reconciliation, but also toward dismantling the binary distinction between the role of members of the dominant culture as advocates of leadership for diversity and the role of Indigenous people and other racialized peoples embodying diverse leadership.

The process of ‘thinking with our hands’ can short-circuit the censorship of the brain.

Adrian Jackson             


Faculty in the MA Leadership programme (in which three of the co-authors teach) deliberately take an experiential, adult learning approach in their courses and seminars. Moreover, several members of the team have a background in the arts, including arts-based leadership, teaching, and research. As a result, we were excited to try to apply some of these approaches to the task of supporting efforts toward reconciliation in our own institution. Since many of us had worked with theatre-based methods in particular, we knew that performative engagement was an approach that could aid us in entering into the conversation about reconciliation in a vital and memorable way.

* Members of the Heron People Circle (formerly known as the Elders’ Circle) advise Royal Roads University on Indigenous protocols and projects. They have encouraged us to use the term “descendants of immigrants” instead of settlers. As always with terminology, we understand that the preferred or more respected terms are those chosen by the individuals involved and can change over time.

The Creative Team     Locating ourselves

Over the years, many people have contributed to the inspiration for and development of this project. The eight authors listed here indicate the core working group. In addition, we gratefully acknowledge the invaluable contributions of TEȺȽIE Nadine Charles, Keil Kodama, and Kolby Koschack to the first run of this event in October 2018, and to Roland Ginger for the second run in February 2019. The Heron People Circle (RRU’s Indigenous Advisory Council) were instrumental in guiding us, and many other people, especially staff and faculty in RRU’s School of Leadership Studies, contributed to the success of this project along the way.

RRU is located on the Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and Lekwungen (Songhees) lands and waterways. Every day we are grateful to Xwsepsum and Lekwungen families, who continue to share their knowledge about these lands and their cultural practices (RRU, 2020). Although we authors are visitors who have been living, working, learning and enjoying these lands for various lengths of time, three of us are Indigenous, including one member of the Heron People Circle. Throughout this project, the descendants of immigrants among us learned the importance of introducing ourselves and situating our families in relationship to the lands on which we were born and raised and where we now live.


Asma-na-hi Antoine

Asma-na-hi translates as “Caring for Precious Ones”. It comes from my late mother Vera Thompson of the Toquaht Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth lands. My last name comes from my late father is Eugene Antoine from the Saik’uz Nation, Carrier Sekani lands. I am the Manager of Indigenous Education and Student Services at RRU.

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Catherine Etmanski

I grew up in Vancouver on the lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people. My mother’s family were New York Dutch, British, and Irish-American. My father’s family were from the Kashubian region of Poland as well as Clan MacDonald of Clanranald in Scotland. I am professor and director of the School of Leadership Studies at RRU.


Cheryl Heykoop

I grew up in Ontario on the ancestral lands of Anishinabewaki and Huron-Wendat Peoples. I am of Dutch and English origin. I am an assistant professor with the School of Leadership Studies at RRU.


Lisa Corak

I was born on the traditional lands of the Tsleil-Waututh people. I worked professionally in theatre, primarily as a production stage manager, for over 15 years. I now enjoy supporting the leadership programs at RRU, especially the experiential learning activities.

Krystal Cook

I am a Kwakwaka'wakw Woman from the Namgis First Nation. I am a graduate of the En'owkin International School of Writing at the University of Victoria and the Centre for Indigenous Theatre’s Native Theatre School Program. I am a theatrical performer, facilitator, and poet. I work with Aboriginal Nations Education Division in School District 61.

Niels Agger-Gupta

Born in Germany to German-Norwegian parents, I grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on nêhiyawak (Cree), Oceti Sakowin (Sioux), and Métis lands, before I lived in Calgary on the borderland between the Niitsitapi / Siksika (Blackfoot) and the Tsuut’ina (Sarcee) Nations for 20 years. I am an associate professor with the School of Leadership Studies at RRU, supporting mid-career leaders to create empowering change in their own communities.


Shirley Alphonse

I am from the Cowichan Tribes and a member of the Heron People Circle. I serve as a spiritual representative of the T’Sou-ke Nation and I am the Elder in Residence for BC Premier, John Horgan. I work with people of all ages, including children and youth, to share my teachings to preserve cultural knowledge.

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Will Weigler

I was born and raised on the lands of the Multnomah peoples in Portland, Oregon. I am a theatre director, playwright, producer, and professional storyteller, now living and working on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish Peoples. I have written five books on different aspects of co-creating theatre with people in communities about the issues that matter to them.

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