Graduate student Lauren Micaela Petersen wins leadership award and scholarship for her work centering M├ętis identity and belonging with K-12 students

Navigating identity has always been an undercurrent in Lauren Petersen’s life.

She grew up seeing and hearing very few stories of Métis resilience, and instead learned about her culture and heritage at home. “I was raised surrounded by stories,” she recalls, “and they continue to shape the way I navigate the dualities of my identity.”

Lauren currently works as the K-12 Education Manager for Métis Nation British Columbia and is completing a project-based graduate degree in leadership at UVic. Reflecting on her own childhood experiences as a 2S (two-spirit) Métis person, Lauren knew she wanted to integrate themes of identity and belonging into her studies. She wanted to create pathways for new generations of Métis children to understand their culture and themselves on a deeper level.

When it came time to design her graduate capstone project, she decided to construct a province-wide art project for K-12 learners centered on the question: “Why are you proud to be Métis?”

An arts-based project for K-12 learners

Her project emphasizes allowing Métis children to participate in traditional arts-based knowledge sharing and practices, like engaging with knowledge carriers and elders in the process of creating art. It encourages students and educators alike to decolonize the learning theories used in the classroom and shift toward the communal, cooperative nature of Indigenous epistemologies.

“I strongly believe that providing more opportunities to consider a wider range of Metis perspectives will lead the way to the eventual development of resources and services that better reflect traditional Metis epistemologies and values, creating more culturally safe learning environments and protecting cultural continuity for more generations to come,” Lauren wrote in her project proposal. “My research is my resistance, and this project provides me a platform through which to embody and share that resistance to colonial systems in a way that is aesthetic, accessible, and engaging.”

Leadership award and scholarship 

Lauren was recently awarded two awards for her work: The John Michael Brownutt graduate scholarship for academic excellence and community leadership, and the Supporting Aboriginal Graduate Enhancement (SAGE) graduate leadership award for her project proposal on Métis identity and pedagogy. The awards recognize the importance of her work and provide important funding for her project.    

Lauren’s work is set to be presented this May at Mawachihitotaaak (Let's Get Together) Conference, the first-ever Métis collective knowledge-sharing symposium scheduled to take place in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

As for the future, Lauren plans to continue her work with the BC public education system and Métis Nation British Columbia. She intends to facilitate community-based work, sharing her capstone project as a tool and resource. Her hope is that offering a hands-on, arts-based project for Métis children and youth enrolled in K-12 education systems will lead to more fulsome dialogue and understanding of cross-generational learning opportunities.

 Lauren Peterson

Hear Lauren discuss her life and work as a guest on the following podcasts: