Kiana Alexander-Hill

Kiana Alexander-Hill knows that saying ‘yes’ is not always easy.

The 2020 recipient of the Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence says her path to a Master of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads challenged the University to say ‘yes’ to new ways of knowing.

“I was the only (self-identified) Indigenous student in my cohort and I really had to advocate for doing my thesis research in a way that was both academically strong and reflective of my lived experiences and beliefs.

“It was hard work, but I think having my research recognized proves there is room at the highest academic levels for educational approaches that are accountable to ourselves, our communities and our cultural and relational responsibilities.”

Alexander-Hill says there is great value in that to both Indigenous learners and the institutions where they choose to study.

“My biggest advice to Indigenous learners always is to believe in what you already know. Yes, you have a lot to learn, but you can also trust the wisdom you already have.”

She says she was first drawn to the RRU leadership program by its commitment to supporting creative and innovative forms of learning and leadership.

“RRU has invested deeply in creating good relations as the stewards of the lands where the university rests; they are actively working towards creating learning environments that amplify Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and recognize that their responsibilities to integrate these knowledges will benefit all learners”.

Often called “the hopeful one” by her Elders and wise ones when she was growing up,  Alexander-Hill says her optimism comes from a fundamental belief in herself and what is possible for the future.

“I didn’t know what path my own educational journey would take, but I knew if I could just start, I could do whatever was needed to make it possible for myself. Providing Indigenous students opportunities for growth and exploration is incredibly valuable to our collective future. There will always be challenges, but removing some of the financial barriers that exist for Indigenous students to thrive is a critical step in the process.”

As part of The Tomorrow Makers campaign for Indigenous student success and research grants, we’re sharing stories of Indigenous alumni who are making a difference in the world. You can help future Indigenous leaders tackle climate change, sustainability and community development for this generation and for those to come. You can be a Tomorrow Maker by supporting one today.