Dr. Judith Sayers, also known as Kekinusuqs, wearing a woven cedar hat and smiling.
Photo Credit: Green Energy Futures / Flickr

Kekinusuqs—Dr. Judith Sayers—Sworn In as Vancouver Island University’s Chancellor

Dr. Sayers is one awesome lady

It was a “powerful statement of reconciliation” according to Snuneymuxw Councillor Emmy Manson

Dr. Judith Sayers already had a lot of titles, but now she has a new one. Known by her traditional name as Kekinusuqs, she is a lawyer, a professor, was Chief of the Hupacasath First Nation, and is the President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Now, she is also the Chancellor of Vancouver Island University (VIU).

She was sworn in last Thursday in a virtual ceremony. The ceremony took place on Snuneymuxw First Nation territory, where VIU is located.

As Chancellor, Dr. Sayers is the head of the university. She helps the university make decisions and talks to the government and big donors.

In her speech at the ceremony, she said “I want to help build a university where everyone can belong and be equal, a place that is safe and can create a learning environment where everyone can learn.”

She also acknowledged that Indigenous students can face racism in colleges and universities. This can make it tough to do well in school, or even to finish.

Part of the ceremony included new ceremonial regalia—basically the judges robes of the university world. Dr. Sayers’s regalia was designed by The Good House of Design, a Coast Salish art company.

Both Dr. Sayers and the University’s president, Dr. Deborah Saucier, will wear the regalia at student graduation ceremonies. Dr. Saucier is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

Snuneymuxw Councillor Emmy Manson said that having the ceremony on Indigenous land and having the Chancellor wear the new regalia is part of reconciliation with Snuneymuxw people.

She said that reconciliation “is a job for us.” As an Indigenous community, it is the job “to reconcile with ourselves, reconcile with our language, reconcile with our trauma and our pain, but reconcile with our joy.”

“We’re awesome. And we need to remember that.”