It isn’t every day that the United States Ambassador to Canada stops by your research centre but that’s exactly what happened on May 15th when Bruce Heyman and his wife Vicki made a special stop to visit the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) at the University of Regina (U of R).
Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew, Director of IPHRC, along with Dr. David Malloy, U of R Vice-President of Research, greeted the visitors and escorted them to the Aboriginal Student Centre followed by an introduction of attendees that led to a presentation about IPHRC’s current research agenda.
Dr. Malloy said the Ambassador and his wife have a personal interest in First Nation and Métis issues and had heard about the excellent work that Dr. Episkenew and her team were doing.
“I was quite happy that they took the time out of their very busy schedule to visit our campus. It’s indicative of the quality of research that IPHRC is doing and reflects very well on our campus as an emerging research cluster in First Nation, Métis, and Inuit research,” said Dr. Malloy.
“The most memorable part of the visit was actually the stories told by the students of their past and of the successes that they are experiencing here at the University. I was inspired and humbled by each student as they discussed their existential courage and their drive for excellence for themselves and for their/our community,” said Dr. Malloy.
Dr. Episkenew led a presentation specifically on one of the projects IPHRC recently worked on about the mental health and well being using an arts-based health research methodology.
Dr. Episkenew said she was honored to have the Ambassador and his wife to come and learn about the work IPHRC does.
“I was surprised and pleased when they wanted to see what we do here at IPHRC. I did a presentation specifically on one of the projects we recently worked one about the mental health and well being which is an arts based health research methodology and an Indigenous method,” said Episkenew.
Gabriel Yahyahkeekoot, a Community Research Associate at IPHRC, also entertained the Ambassador and his wife with a short video presentation about the film work the team does with hopes they can implement some of their research in American communities.
“My hopes were that we could leave him with something that impacted him and his wife in any kind of way that would leave them thinking this is a positive thing,” said Yahyahkeekoot.
The Ambassador and his wife also inquired about the history of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. One of the attendees, David Benjoe, who is also a Community Research Associate at IPHRC, shared his experience of what it was like to be a former residential school student.
“I’m considered a survivor but I call myself an attendee. I went to Lebret in the 80s. Everyone was surprised I said anything. My whole family went to residential school. I felt it was important to explain to the Ambassador and his wife about the residential school because they made it sound like it was real long time ago. They were speaking like it was 30 or 40 years ago. It’s always with us, we carry that garbage; that mentality that you can’t shake,” said Benjoe.
Dr. Malloy said he understands why the Ambassador and his wife thought IPHRC was important visit.
“What IPHRC is doing is making an impact in the scholarly world - which is important - but more essential, they are making a difference in the daily lives of individuals and communities,” said Dr. Malloy.
The Ambassador sent Episkenew an invitation to attend an event in Ottawa on July 4th. Episkenew believes it’s his way of showing his appreciation for sharing information with them about IPHRC.
“I've been invited to go, but I haven't made up my mind about going yet,” she said.
The Heymans also toured the Saskatchewan Legislative Building, the RCMP ‘Depot’ Division and were invited to a dinner hosted by the Saskatchewan Power Corporation before departing back to the U.S the following morning.
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IPHRC Research Assistant - KT & Communications