After graduating from Augustana in 2000, Naomi went on to complete a master’s degree in English at the U of A. In the course of her studies, she explored her Aboriginal heritage. (Her ancestry includes Cree and Ojibwe.) Naomi took Cree language classes and began to write about her family heritage. Her thesis blended scholarly research, family history, and her own poems, which she wrote partly in Cree. After she graduated, she published a collection of those poems, titled kiyâm, in which she explores her mixed-race identity and the ironies of language. In spite of having published a number of articles, reviews, and translations, Naomi says kiyâm is the accomplishment she is most proud of.
In 2011, Augustana hosted the annual University of Alberta round dance, and Naomi was presented with an eagle feather. For her, it represents the acknowledgement of a major accomplishment in the face of adversity. “To the Cree people, receiving an eagle feather comes with both honour and responsibility,” Naomi explains. “It was a wonderfully humbling and proud moment for me.”
Naomi is an active community volunteer who has taught creative writing at the Edmonton Institution for Women and is president of the Edmonton Stroll of Poets. She is passionate about giving back to the community and about sharing the blessings of her education, which she never takes for granted. In fact, with one graduate and two undergraduate degrees under her belt, Naomi says, “I received my best education from Augustana.”
kipê-kiwânaw (We have come home)
Friday, March 22
Dr. Roger Epp Conference Centre, Augustana Forum
Naomi McIlwraith will read from her poetry collection kiyâm and share her story of exploring her Aboriginal inheritance through a sweet family irony. Though her father was not Aboriginal, he grew up on reserves in Northeastern Alberta and learned nêhiyawêwin, the Plains Cree language, from the little Cree children he played with and the old Cree ladies who raised him. Naomi inherits Cree and Ojibwe from her Mom, along with Scottish and English, through the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trade. In keeping with Augustana’s current academic theme of Resilience, Naomi will read these four poems and allow some time for questions and conversation: “The Young Linguist”, “pahkwêsikan—Bread”, “sâpohtawân”, and “Trademark Translation”.
$5 (Lunch included). Augustana students with their OneCard may attend free. Reserve your seat by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 780-679-1626.