By Sauvé Fellow Rachel MacNeill

In the seven months that the Sauvé Fellows have lived in Montreal, we have often reflected on the fact that the city is located on traditional Kanien’kehá:ka territory. For some of us, it is the first time we have been exposed to Canada’s colonial past and the diverse histories and cultures of Canada’s First Nations. With current events unfolding in Canada, where reconciliation is top of mind for many, we have been provided much food for thought.

On February 10, we were honoured to receive Melanie Goodchild, Anishinaabe of the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation, who spoke to us about her indigenous identity and how it informs as well as supports her journey as a public leader.

Goodchild works as Senior Counsel, Indigenous Relations at National Office of the Canadian Red Cross. She supports other major Canadian institutions as well, such as Save the Children Canada, trying to make such institutions more responsive to indigenous Canadians. While Goodchild’s resume is impressive enough to fuel several hours of conversation, she focused primarily on her personal indigenous identity and the complexities of reconciliation. When she spoke of her professional experience, it was to highlight how her Anishinaabe identity informs her holistic perspective and conviction that incorporating cultural competency is vital to improving Canadian institutions.

Goodchild embarked on her public leadership journey as an adolescent, joining a multicultural youth council at the same time as she began exploring her Anishinaabe culture. A true knowledge keeper, she bridges the gap between culture and activism and over the years, has become an academic, a cultural translator and spiritual helper for her community.

In her academic life, Goodchild advocates for “eclectic inquiry”, a process of looking for solutions across many disciplines. Her interdisciplinary perspective in academia echoes her approach to cultural relations in Canada: in recognizing the value and teachings of all cultures and what they can share with each other, we can enter a truly transformative space.

The main takeaway from Goodchild’s talk for the Sauvé Fellows was to “speak with your authentic voice.” Goodchild led by example, sharing with us meaningful personal anecdotes and the identity, community and experiences that make her a truly inspiring and effective leader.

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