Educator - Okiskinwahamakew
Cyndy worked as a helper for several years before and
during the time she got her university education. She put in 20 years of
front line work before becoming an educator. As a helper, Cyndy has been
involved in community organizing/development, family services/child
welfare, and counseling/therapy primarily in the areas of family violence
and sexual abuse with both victims and offenders. Cyndy has also been and
continues to be a trainer with service providers in environments such as
culture-based/restorative justice initiatives, correctional services
programs, services for survivors of the residential school and child
welfare systems, and holistic healing from Aboriginal perspectives.
Despite her university degrees, Cyndy was not always
an academic. She struggled throughout school while growing up and dropped
out of high school. Like many Aboriginal peoples, she returned to school
as an adult after several short term jobs as a mailroom clerk, drug store
cashier and secretarial assistant. Her path to becoming an educator came
out of her disappointment with most of her education, including social
work, which she found to be irrelevant and oppressive towards Aboriginal
worldviews. She also believed that 20 years of front line social work also
gave her something valuable to teach others as well as the fact that, like
many who access the services of our profession, she has been a user of
social services due to abuse, drug addictions and mental illnesses.
Cyndys PhD thesis, Centering Aboriginal World Views in Social Work Education, is exactly what she attempts to do in her teaching, research and writing. This is her reason for being in the academy – that her small contributions will make the path a little less difficult for Aboriginal students and educators coming after her. Within the academy, she is known for pushing academic boundaries, encouraging students to think outside the box and for being a trail blazer. She is the first student to push her request to offer research participants tobacco and have her Elder present at her PhD oral defense at the University of Toronto, and she is the first tenure track Aboriginal instructor and the first instructor to get a mandatory course in social work with Aboriginal peoples at Ryerson University.
As much as she loves teaching, Cyndy finds the academy challenging. Thus, she relies on her Mi’kmaq values and beliefs about spirituality, family, and responsibility to give back because she has been given so much to keep her more or less well and strong. Cyndy also gets renewed from wrestling with her son and grandson, going home to the ocean, watching vampire movies, reading novels, listening to Bruce Springsteen and Aboriginal hip hop artists (really loud), dancing like no one is watching, and laughing with her husband.
Significant Canadian Social Work Links: