Meet Young Scholars Essay Prize Winners Helen and Helena!

We’re thrilled to announce winners of this years’ Young Scholars Essay Prize.

First prize is awarded to Helen Knott, Prophet River First Nation. We’ve had the privilege of working with Helen on the Site-C campaign, as she was a strong voice for Treaty 8 on the “Caravan for the Peace” that travelled across Canada from the banks of the Peace River to the Federal Court in Montreal. A brilliant poet, Helen has a must-read decolonizing blog, “Dancing with Decolonization”. Subscribe :

Read a profile of Helen here:

Excerpt from her paper:

My Asu (Grandmother) has called me Dishinit Sakeh since I was born because I have my Father’s Cree facial features. The name Dishinit Sakeh means “Cree Woman” in the Dane Zaa language and it defines my position as an insider and an outsider in my community, Prophet River First Nations, which is predominantly Dane Zaa. I am also of mixed European ancestry as my maternal Grandfather was a White man from Montana who chose to settle in the territory when he was on his way to Alaska. Although I come from a mixed background, I strongly identify with Dane Zaa ways of being and knowing as I am very close with my maternal family. 

Read Helen Knott’s full essay:


RAVEN’s second prize winner is Helena Arbuckle, of Victoria/Coast Salish Territories.

A student of Political Science, Philosophy and Indigenous Studies at the University of Victoria, Helena has been a vocal activist against Pacific Northwest LNG, Kinder Morgan pipeline, while supporting local food sustainability initiatives.

“I wrote Contemporary Colonialism: The Dakota Access Pipeline for Poli 313C: Indigenous Politics and the U.S Political Systems. Along with other courses in Indigenous Politics, I had the pleasure of taking Poli 313C with Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark. I would like
to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Stark for all of the lessons and patience she has gifted me throughout my time at the University of Victoria.
I researched this paper with an intention to learn about non-Indigenous allies due to my position as a Settler on unceded and unsurrendered territories. Moreover, although it is important to note that my paper is written in a specific U.S context, I wrote it because of the many parallels I drew between the Kinder Morgan and Dakota Access pipeline. For instance, in the context of so-called British Columbia, First Nations are asserting their inherent right to jurisdiction over their lands, waters and livelihoods through both direct action resurgence movements, and working within the Canadian legal system. I submitted this paper to RAVEN’s young scholar essay prize to highlight how direct action resurgence movements are also necessary conditions for transforming relationships amongst people, political communities, and the earth. I subsequently urge those who find inspiration in Contemporary Colonialism: The Dakota Access Pipeline to practice what Chela Sandoval in The Methodology of the Oppressed calls “differential consciousness.” Differential consciousness resists framing social movements using an either/or approach that privileges one organizing strategy over another (40-63). In other words, in order to strategically navigate and utilize the institutions made available in the face of ever-changing political winds, those seeking transformative change ought to build relationships across a diversity of approaches. Rather than completely embracing the Canadian legal system as the ultimate means for enforcing Indigenous rights and title to protect traditional territories or, alternatively, rejecting judicial review because it may fall short in putting forward liberating
resolutions for Indigenous Nations, I urge invoking differential consciousness. This, in turn, may leverage the potential benefits of the Canadian legal system while simultaneously acknowledging and addressing its limitations. The question, then, is how can we continue working towards RAVEN’s mission to raise legal defence funds that support Indigenous Peoples, while simultaneously concretizing it’s vision of a country that respects and honours Indigenous ancestral laws?”

Excerpt from her paper:

It is important to note that I am writing this paper from the position of a Settler who resides in unceded and unsurrendered W̱ SÁNEĆ, Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations territories. I recognize myself as a Treaty 7 and Douglas Treaty person because the legitimacy of my existence on Tsuut’ina (Treaty 7), and W̱ SÁNEĆ, Songhees and Esquimalt (Douglas Treaty) territories depends on the establishment of ongoing treaty relationships between Indigenous Nations and Settlers. Moreover, I locate myself as a Settler in order to recognize the relationship to where I live as rooted in colonialism. Hence, I am aware of my position of privilege as a beneficiary of settler colonization. It is the resentment and guilt I associate with my privilege that, in part, motivates me to decolonize my mind and encourage Settlers to embark on their own pathway towards decolonization. I am incredibly grateful and fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from Indigenous people inside and outside of the academy. This gift of knowledge has given me many responsibilities, such as acknowledging the territories I am situated on, while simultaneously honoring the peoples to which these territories belong.

Read Helena Arbuckle’s full essay:


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