Meet Jon-Evan Quoquochi
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Jon-Evan Quoquochi, I am Atikamekw Nehirowisiw and I come from the community of Wemotaci, which is an indigenous community in Quebec. I am the father of two young girls and the husband of a wonderful woman. I am doing a bachelor's degree in Social Sciences with a specialization in Political Science at the University of Ottawa which I will finish in December 2021. In January, I will be pursuing my graduate studies in Political Science at the university.
During my studies, I worked for the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Intellectual Traditions and Self-Determination in the summer of 2021 as a research assistant, which was a beneficial experience for my identity as well as for my academic career. This work has allowed me to learn more about ancestral systems of political functioning, particularly the one that the Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok have been practicing for millennia. Currently, I am a research assistant and teaching assistant for two different professors. All these experiences encourage me to study more and to pursue my academic career.
I will soon be working in Odanak and teaching at Kiuna, which is the only Aboriginal CEGEP in Quebec! I will be teaching the Introduction to Political Science course, and it is a great honor to be part of this faculty.
How has your faculty experience affected your education?
My experience at the Faculty of Social Sciences has affected my education in an incredibly positive way. The courses offered by the Faculty have allowed me to position myself on the issues that particularly affect me as an Atikamekw Nehirowisiw.
Another positive aspect of the Faculty of Social Sciences is that there is increased room for indigenous people in the content of the courses offered. I have noticed some changes with the professors I have met during my undergraduate journey, changes such as the integration of indigenous peoples' perspectives and realities into the course curricula. Some of the non-Indigenous professors helped me in a process of decolonization of knowledge, which reinforced and encouraged me to continue.
As for the University in general, the recruitment of Indigenous professors is a real need for Indigenous students. It is necessary for many of us to have a resource such as an Indigenous professor to share ideological positions, perspectives, and analysis of the land in a culturally safe environment.
Why is it important to you to provide an exceptional university education and environment that honours the history and culture of Indigenous students?
It is important to me that universities get involved in reconciliation with indigenous peoples. So, obviously, universities need to create intellectual and physical spaces that tend to be culturally safe that the Indigenous student feels comfortable to be able to study and to be able to express themselves in courses and university work. I appreciated when professors accepted my comments and adjusted course content accordingly.
Is there a particular professor who marked your experience at the University?
There is one professor that has marked my experience at the University of Ottawa, his name is Pierrot Ross-Tremblay. He taught me in the course Self-Determination among First Peoples, and he was also the Canada Research Chair in Intellectual Traditions and Self-Determination of First Peoples where I could work as a research assistant.
This Essipiunnu professor allowed me to continue to believe in my intellectual abilities. I was at a point where I was doubting myself positioning in the face of the various reticence and issues regarding the importance of Indigenous Peoples within university courses. As if the perspectives and views of Indigenous peoples were worth less. I was going through a difficult academic period; I was beginning to feel that my intellectual abilities did not match the values and expectations of the university. When I enrolled in Pierrot Ross-Tremblay's course, my views were quickly justified by academic papers that I did not know existed. This professor created the connection between the intellectual documents and I, in addition to giving me the dream of one day becoming a professor.
As mentioned above, it is necessary for Indigenous students to have a point of reference in the faculty. In cases where there are no Indigenous faculty members, it is necessary for non-Indigenous faculty members to encourage Indigenous students in their academic pursuits. The perspectives and scientific data of indigenous people are paramount for indigenous students. Furthermore, Mireille McLaughlin and Hélène Pellerin are two examples for non-Native professors to follow in my opinion. Indeed, they supported me in my success by recognizing the realities that I was living as a student, a father, and an Atikamekw Nehirowisiw.
Each teacher has a unique ability to contribute to the reduction of ills in Indigenous communities through their role and responsibilities as a teacher.
What are your future goals in completing a master's degree in Political Science at the University of Ottawa?
When I was a teenager, I just wanted to get through high school. Sport studies allowed me to do that. I did not think I could go to university because of my grades. Today, I would like to continue in the university environment after the master's degree up to the doctorate, so that young people and future generations can study, if they want to, in an environment where the knowledge of their people has a place, is valued and shared. The educational environment has contributed to the genocide of our people. For my part, I would like to help diminish the societal ills that are perpetuated by the decolonization and indigenization of the university environment while creating bridges between cultures and generations.