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About Us (Centre for Policy and Research in Indigenous Learning)

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S. Brenda Small, Vice President

S. Brenda Small photoWachiyea,

My name is S. Brenda Small.  My surname, which is Kapashesit in the Cree language, was translated literally into English as Small, during my paternal grandfather’s time.  My family roots are in northern Quebec at Waskaganish and Chisasibi primarily.  Earlier generations of my family lived in the Quebec interior at Waswanipi.  To this day, most of my relatives live in northern Quebec. I was raised in Moose Factory, Ontario where my father, James Small Sr.,  and extended family live today.  My mother Lillian Iserhoff passed away in January 1986 and my younger sibling, my brother, Randy Kapashesit, passed away in April 2012.  I am Auntie to Ajuawak Kapashesit and Waseyabin LaDuke, and great aunt to Giiwedin Buckanaga, who live in northern Minnesota.

I have been working in Indigenous education at Confederation College in a variety of roles including curriculum, program development, teaching, academic leadership and senior management for over 20 years.  My current role is to develop the Centre for Policy and Research in Indigenous Learning at Confederation College.  It is an amazing opportunity because we’re building on our historical work in Aboriginal education and training to make a real difference in our communities.  I consider myself lucky because along with colleagues and visionaries who bring their own gifts, knowledge and experiences to this project, we are continuing the efforts of those who worked in this College to affect social change.  The Centre is identified in the Second Pillar of the Strategic Plan at Confederation College “to support and advance Aboriginal Learning” which means we share this vision with our community partners and our college community.

My education started in journalism/broadcasting, along with an undergraduate degree in sociology and political science.  After working in Indigenous community organizations and the provincial government, I returned to university and obtained a law degree.  In 1994, I became a qualified lawyer in Ontario and joined the College that same year.  Since that time I have been fully engaged in public education with emphasis on Indigenous education, Indigenous Knowledge and Intercultural learning.

When I was 14 years of age we moved away from our island home at Moose Factory so that my younger brother and I could attend high school. Our family moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario where we made the transition to secondary school learning as a family.  I remember the change was significant for us. We chose to move away from home so that a high school education was possible for me and my brother.  Attending university was assumed in our family even though our parents had not completed high school; working in advocacy, planning and policy today is merely an extension of my upbringing.

S. Brenda Small, B.A., LL. B, Vice President

Jennifer Oja, Administrative Assistant

Jennifer Oja photoHi there!  As Administrative Assistant, I work in an administrative capacity providing support to the Vice President, Centre for Policy and Research in Indigenous Learning, which involves work on numerous initiatives, partnerships and projects that have a focus on advancing Indigenous learning.

Currently, I serve as Recording Secretary to Negahneewin Council, the Aboriginal Education Circle/Council at Confederation College and also to the Indigenous Peoples Education Circle (IPEC) that is a provincial committee that has representation from all 24 Colleges and is composed of members who work as educators, counsellors and/or administrators in the area of Aboriginal Education.  Both committees meet on a quarterly basis.

I joined Confederation College in 2011, starting out as Administrative Assistant to the Dean, Negahneewin College of Academic and Community Development where the Aboriginal specific academic programs as well as student supports for Aboriginal learners were housed centrally.

For the past 14 years, I have worked in the Education sector at both elementary and postsecondary environments in the areas of Library Science & Administration.  Previous to joining the College, I worked as a Library Assistant at the Chancellor Paterson Learning Commons at Lakehead University, and as a Library Technician at two elementary schools within Northern Ontario.  I have experience in working in the public library system through my role as Chief Executive Officer of the Greenstone Public Library system where I managed a four-branch library system, and served as Secretary/Treasurer to the Greenstone Public Library Board.

I obtained a Diploma in Library and Information Studies and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with a minor in Gerontology through Lakehead University.  Choosing to study at Lakehead University was a natural fit having grown up in Red Rock, Ontario, a small town located northeast of but in close proximity to Thunder Bay.  My husband and I have lived and worked in Northern Ontario all our lives, and have chosen to settle in Thunder Bay to raise our two children to be near our families.