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Ska’nikòn:ra: Indigenous Governance and the Future of Leadership

September 22, 2023 @ 8:45 am - 4:30 pm

Watch the publicly available recordings here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpm6rbayTSjaUX4bja2Xd2Aq7CnXcSy6T

Kwe’. Welta’si na’ nike’ pekisin.

Hello. I am glad that you have arrived.

My name is Benny Skinner, and I am a Mi’kmaw/Kapampangan scholar and research administrator currently residing on the traditional territories of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg, and Haudenosaunee peoples. I work as an Indigenous Research Advisor on the University of Waterloo’s Inclusive Research Team, and I am the lead organizer of “Ska’nikòn:ra: Indigenous Governance and the Future of Leadership.”

The Balsillie School of International Affairs is teaming up with the University of Waterloo’s Office of Research and Office of Indigenous Relations to host a full-day event on Indigenous governance. The title of the event, “Ska’nikòn:ra,” is a Haudenosaunee term, gifted to me by Mohawk speaker Kawennakon Bonnie Whitlow. The term can be roughly translated to English as “Coming Together with One Mind.” Bonnie describes it as the ultimate expression of unity, and the goal that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy strives to achieve through the application of Kayanere’owa – the Great Law of Peace. It is a term that speaks of coming to consensus and is highly significant in these territories, which were granted to the Six Nations via the Haldimand Tract of 1784. It is my hope that this title will not only highlight the contents and spirit of this event from an Indigenous perspective, but also honour the nations who have inherited the rights to this land.

This event will bring together Indigenous governance knowledge keepers, elders, community members, and scholars to teach about various topics related to Indigenous governance. Undoubtedly, these individuals deserve to be recognized, celebrated, and have space held for them in the sphere of governance studies so that we can establish a better path for the future of our world. Through this experience, attendees will develop a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances across contemporary Indigenous governance activities. Hopefully, this will additionally contribute to building the capacity of settler scholars to understand the intricacies Indigenous governance more thoroughly, which will hopefully lead to stronger avenues for reconciliation, genuine collaborations, and decolonizing governance across Turtle Island.

The following is the itinerary of the day:

08:45 – 09:45 Opening Ceremony
09:45 – 10:05 “Indigenous Data Sovereignty” by Sara Anderson
10:05 – 10:40 “Reclaiming Our Fire: Bodewadmi in Canada” by Winona Elliott
10:40 – 10:50 Wellness Break
10:50 – 11:45 “Movements and Moments: Re-Indigenizing Land and Water Governance”

  • “Land Back as Indigenous Governance: Regenerating Resurgence and Indigenous Internationalism” by Dr. Jeff Ganohalidoh Corntassel
  • “Protect the Tract” by Courtney Skye
  • “Water Back: Advancing Indigenous Water Governance” by Dr. Kelsey Leonard

11:45 – 13:15 Catered lunch by Jo-Anne Absolon & Kin
13:15 – 13:50 “Decolonizing International Diplomacy”

  • “Public Leadership and Decolonization” by Dr. Matthew Wildcat
  • “Identity Diplomacy and Design” by Dr. David Fortin

13:50 – 14:00 Wellness Break
14:00 – 14:50 “The Future of Traditional Governance Structures”

  • “The Great Law of Peace” by Dr. Darren Thomas
  • “Kanoronhkwá & Symbols” by Stephanie Pangowish
  • “Revitalizing Traditional Governance Structures at Deshkan Ziibiing” by Elder Myeengun Henry

14:50 – 15:00 Wellness Break
15:00 – 15:50 “Governing Knowledge and Ways of Knowing”

  • “Storytelling and Performance as Method” by Kelly Fran Davis
  • “Visual Arts as Method” by Kawennakon Bonnie Whitlow, MA
  • “Sharing Circles as Method” by Benny Skinner

15:50 – 16:30 Gathering in Circle: “Learning by Doing” Educational Session
16:30 – 17:00 Closing ceremony

Please join me as we engage with this exciting learning opportunity. Light refreshments in the morning and a catered lunch will be provided during the day. Though attendance in person is highly suggested, some (but not all) sessions will be provided in a hybrid format throughout the day for those who are limited to attending remotely.

Wela’lioq and salamat po,
Benny Skinner (they/them)


Image of the Tree of Peace with eagle feathers floating in the wind at dusk. The moon and sun are both on the horizon.

Image credit: Benny Skinner/University of Waterloo


September 22, 2023
8:45 am - 4:30 pm


CIGI Auditorium
67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2 Canada
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