The Busara Circle use their wisdom and experience to mentor program participants in Homeward Bound’s leadership initiative. Meet new Busara Circle recruit Lori Campbell, the inaugural Associate Vice-President (Indigenous Engagement) at the University of Regina in Canada. Lori is a Two-Spirit Cree-Metis woman, the granddaughter of a residential school survivor and a survivor of the Sixties Scoop.

Lori Campbell

Who is Lori Campbell and what do you do?

I have the privilege of holding the inaugural role of Associate Vice-President (Indigenous Engagement) at the University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

In this position, I provide leadership to developing and implementing an institution-wide strategy for Indigenous initiatives.

This requires implementing systemic changes that allows for the unapologetic brilliance and excellence of Indigenous students, staff and faculty to thrive in the university environment.

I am a Two-Spirit Cree-Metis woman, the granddaughter of a residential school survivor, and a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. I am a life-long learner of both my traditional, cultural ways and the academic, institutional ways. Having this parallel learning allows me to walk forward, navigating both worlds successfully and working to educate others, creating positive change.

Lori was one of 24 competitors in Canada’s Ultimate Challenge broadcast on CBC earlier this year.
Credit: CBC

You have been described as a “warrior woman” in advancing the progress of engagement in indigenisation, decolonisation, and reconciliation in postsecondary education and administration. Can you tell us a little bit more about this work?

My work is not a 9-5 job. I am not separate from my Two-Spirit Indigeneity so I often say that my Indigeneity doesn’t define me but it does tell you the lens from which I experience the world. This lens is present 24/7 and 365 days of the year. My personal cultural practice requires me to constantly learn, unlearn, and learn again. This process requires that I understand the ongoing structures of colonisation in order to engage in the process of decolonisation.

In our Cree language, and most Indigenous languages, there is no direct translation for the word “reconciliation” and the word itself means that things had been right at some point, then gone bad, and so then you “reconcile”. Our ancestors say that things had never been right and that a better word to use is  kwayaskastâsowin – which means “to put things right”. Words are important.

Thinking about how we work together to “put things right” is a much more accurate way to think about Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations. Indigenization is essentially combined outcome of decolonising and reconciliatory work that is centred from Indigeneity.

Credit: CBC Saskatchewan 

You have had many achievements in the work you do for advocating social justice. What is your personal greatest achievement?

I think I would say my greatest achievement to date has been completing the 25 year search to locate my birthmom, my six living siblings, and many more of my relatives.

My siblings had all been apprehended, put into care, and some adopted through the Sixties Scoop assimilation program. And, the work does still continue as I meet and with lawyers and family members and write letters to various areas of the government trying to get copies of our information that they have gathered on us over the years. Creating a narrative that supports the government assimilation programs.

Lori received the 2023 Indspire Award in Edmondton, Alberta for her work in education earlier this month.

Homeward Bound’s Busara Circle has a strong focus on elevating the different approaches to leadership in our world today. What is your approach to leadership?

I am centred in my Two-Spirit Indigenous identity and I work to lead following the principles of our culture. That is, I strive to stay connected to the strength of our ancestors, I speak truth to power, I represent the voices of our people – even when my voice shakes. I believe knowledge is responsibility – not power.​

What are the best words of wisdom you have ever heard?

I think the principle that I focus on a lot is knowing that every day, every moment, isn’t always going to be my best day or moment, but I always strive to ensure that I am giving and doing my best in each and every moment and in each and every day – and I try to treat myself with love, kindness and compassion – the same as I work to treat everyone else.

What advice do you have for other women who want to be change-makers?

I think it is so important to know yourself, know where you come from, know your values, what you stand for and who you represent – and then – hold truth to power. AND, have your ride or die crew – that small group of friends and supporters who call you out – with love, kindness and compassion, when you need to be called out, who help you up, when you need a hand – and who are your biggest cheerleaders, when you have an accomplishment!

Follow Lori Campbell on Twitter and Instagram

Read Lori Campbell: Indigenous “Wonder Woman” speaks truth to power in The Record, Canada

Listen to Lori on The Aunties Dandelion Podcast.

Read about her experience as a competitor on the CBC adventure reality show Canada’s Ultimate Challenge.