Thompson Rivers University

Creating action and commitment through writing: the TRC and academics’ voices

November 16, 2023

Professor Tory Handford delivers an Inaugural Professorial Lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at TRU.

A TRU education professor’s project to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) calls to action began as a writing exercise among colleagues. Many stories and conversations later, a few words from Sexqeltqin (Adams Lake) Elder Mike Arnouse inspired a book.

“Please don’t let this end here,” said Elder Mike.

Education faculty member Tory Handford recalls Elder Mike speaking during the final moments of a 2022 retreat, addressing a gathering of TRU academics and Elders wrapping up their work on a writing project co-led by Handford and retired cultural advisor and Secwépemc poet Garry Gottfriedson. The project began months earlier with colleagues in the Faculty of Education and Social Work. The goal was to address leadership on Truth and Reconciliation through writing.

“Leadership has been my focus throughout my career in education. I’ve come to define it as purpose, people and change, and I see that in the agenda of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” says Handford.

She saw the call for leadership in the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action and took a leap. Academics typically write with an academic voice, but change often involves emotions. So, the group was asked to engage both reason and emotion, shift their thinking and try writing both academically and creatively.

The writers initially sat down with Gottfriedson for a series of two-hour conversations on residential schools and other issues. They learned, unlearned and relearned. As evidence of engagement the group developed poems, children’s stories and academic pieces while meeting one-on-one with Gottfriedson and several Elders.

The final writing retreat brought faculty and Elders together for two days of meaningful dialogue. At its close, Elder Mike urged them to ensure the learning, leadership and trust they had built together carried on.

Handford left the retreat with Elder Mike’s direction in her heart. In her hands was an unusual compilation of stories, poetry and academic writing addressing several of the calls to action.

“It was an important, honest journey of academics trying to integrate head and heart. Garry and I realized we might have a book,” says Handford.

Her academic publisher, with another leap, agreed. The book is slated for publication in 2024, and this month, Handford shares the project in an Inaugural Professorial Lecture at TRU. On Tuesday, Nov. 28, Dangling in the glimmer of hope: Academic action and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission takes attendees on the journey from initial dialogue to trust to leadership, to find a better way forward that includes all.

Gottfriedson, who co-edited the book with Handford, will be reading his poem, In Your Canada during the lecture.

Handford was promoted to professor in the Faculty of Education and Social Work in April 2023. An Inaugural Professorial Lecture (IPL) is given by tenured faculty who have recently been promoted to full professor as a way for universities to publicly celebrate this milestone event in the careers of academics. These lectures provide an opportunity for the public to meet new professors and gain an understanding of their scholarship, research and teaching.

The TRU and Kamloops community is invited to attend Handford’s lecture, 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Scratch Café in the Culinary Arts Training Centre, Kamloops campus. In-person seating is limited, please register here to reserve your seat.

The IPL series is organized by TRU’s Professorial Lecture Committee, with generous support from the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic.

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