Shaelyn Hoffman-Menard



I am currently studying Indigenous Studies and Philosophy at Trent University. I am from the Orillia Ontario and Rama First Nations reservation area. I believe it is important to know what it means to be part Algonquin and to give back to the community. I also believe that it is my responsibility to fight for a clean environment and access to cultural knowledge on the land. I feel connected to canoeing because I have been paddling them ever since I can remember with my family. I have also spent time with my great grandfather, Frank Kuiack, who is named the last fishing guide of Algonquin Park who has been in a canoe for over seventy years. The effects of colonization have disconnected me and my family from the teachings of the canoe. However, attending Trent gave me the opportunity to receive a couple teachings and watch a birch bark canoe be built in the Bata Library.

I heard about this trip and will to attend because I received a summer position with Plenty Canada as their communications and community outreach assistant. Plenty Canada is an international and non-profit organization that utilizes and shares Indigenous knowledge for environmental protection and sustainable development ( This experience will teach me more about the canoe, its history, teachings and information which will apply to my position. The important conversations about how the canoe is an idea or a vessel to think about and experience building belonging, respect, reciprocity, and reconciliation will also be beneficial for the work I will do this summer.

Q: What are we doing right, in every way—what are we going to keep, going forward

A: In my opinion, every aspect of the current system in place needs to change to achieve the controversially defined status of reconciliation. Canada is a federal state, which is a western dominated system that minimally considers indigenous rights, title, access and benefits within its practices. Since this is the current situation, our current system must synthesize Canadian laws of every kind with Indigenous laws of every kind within every aspect of our lives. Since Inidgenous laws teach us the responsibility to care for all our relations, for each other and our environment alike, the cultures and biospheres will also be revitalized. When Indigenous law is realized and visible in Canada, Inidgenous peoples will be empowered in turn. Canadians, especially Indigenous peoples, will be invited to change emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually; even Canada’s ecosystems will change for the better. When Canada can enact the integration and utilization of diverse Inidgenous knowledge, science and ways of life into its foundation, reconciliation will be achieved. This leaves little that will not be changed to fully and meaningfully reconcile with Inidgenous peoples. This is my vision of Canada if it achieved the status of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

What will not change is the grass-roots movements and education that is taking place all over our country and the fight for social and environmental justice and equity.