Where is your favorite place on campus?
Oh my gosh, that is the Hanson Centre. That’s my favourite place.
Tablet or paper?
Name one thing you’ve brought to work from home.
Pictures of my family. I think that’s the biggest thing – being surrounded by my family each and every day. Even though they’re with me in spirit, if I’m having a tough day, I can look over and see my family’s smiling faces.
What is the one thing you can’t live without?
Music. Music for me is the key to my soul. I can’t live without music – whether that’s round dance music or whether that’s hip hop, and everything in-between.
If you won airfare to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I love hiking. I would love to go hiking somewhere – my favourite spot is Phoenix. But to be truthful, if I had anywhere to go, I would go see my sister. She lives in Maryland.
You can invite anyone—alive or dead, real or fictional—to dinner. Who would it be?
It would have to be my Kokum, Sarah – that means “grandma” in Cree. Her first language was Cree, so she barely spoke any English. But if we could have a conversation, I would have so many more questions for her.
If you could switch jobs with someone else on campus for a week, what would you do?
Campus Rec, without question. I would love to see how the programs get developed, and how we get people active on this campus. I think that would be a lot of fun.
What does “uplifting the whole people” mean to you?
I’ve written it down over the years:
That we are all in this together, and no one group of people should carry more burden than another. For me, it starts with acknowledging the First Peoples, my ancestors, who took care of this land for centuries -- which is now a place where we can learn, laugh, play and grow together. To be a place where we genuinely care about each other’s well-being. Equally important is that we talk to each other with humanity, with kindness and dignity, and receive each other with empathy. That, in my way, is how we uplift the whole people.
If you could solve any problem in the world, what would it be?
Racism, for me, is a big weight which we carry as Nehiyaw iskwew, which means “Cree women.” With all the murdered and missing First Nations women across Canada, there’s so much that goes with that… Racism would have to be at the top of the charts for me.
What 3 words best describe your U of A experience?
Humbling, at times exciting, and at times challenging.
About Shana Dion
Tânisi osâwâw acâhkos nehiyaw iskwew niya Kehewin Cree Nation ochi niya. Hello, my spirit name is ‘yellow star’, and I am a Cree woman from Kehewin Cree Nation. It is important that I introduced myself in Cree because it grounds me in who I am, where I come from and who I am accountable to. I am a mother to a beautiful soul named Delton, who just turned 14 and I have no idea how that happened! As the Director of Aboriginal Student Services Centre (ASSC) I am dedicated to supporting, guiding and delivering holistic supports for First Nation, Métis and Inuit learners. I believe that practicing traditional ways and sharing traditional knowledge on campus will provide the space to bring together the larger campus community to engage, educate, and embrace our communal history!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.