U of S names Canada's first tenured Inuk professor


Last updated 5/21/2018 at 2:20pm

Karla Jessen Williamson

Karla Jessen Williamson of the University of Saskatchewan.

SASKATOON-Karla Jessen Williamson has been named as Canada's first tenured Inuk professor at the University of Saskatchewan, and one of the few Inuit professors internationally.

Originally Jessen Williamson was a kalaaleq, an Inuk from Greenland. She received her primary education in Greenland, and attained her high school education in Denmark. Jessen Williamson experienced the issues of racism and colonization first when she was young, and the Danish government moved her family to a larger community.

Since moving to Canada, Jessen Williamson has received bachelor's and master's degrees through the University of Saskatchewan. Her master's thesis dealt with Inuit child-rearing practices as these relate to Inuit relationship to the land in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. Her doctoral studies at University of Aberdeen in Scotland involved studying gender relations in post-colonial Greenland Inuit communities.

Karla is a board member of Inuit/Etude/Studies, and a member of several national organizations such as the Advisory Committee for the Minister of Natural Resources, and previously Canada's International Polar Year National Committee and the Canadian Council on Learning. She has actively adjudicated in the review committees for all three national granting councils, applying her extensive knowledge on research and processes as they involve Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples in Canada and elsewhere.

Dr. Jessen Williamson is not a stranger to "firsts." She was the first female to be appointed Executive Director of the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary since its inception in 1945. Jessen Williamson has taught at the University of Saskatchewan for 16 years on matters dealing with Canada's multiculturalism, antiracism and Aboriginal epistemologies as these relate to education.

"It's still a dream world, of being able to make things happen," Jessen Williamson told reporters at CBC Radio-Canada. She acknowledged that as an Inuit child, "You were never good enough in anything you do. But at the same time, I was very quietly determined to see how I could use that system to actually produce a profound knowledge based on the Inuit traditions. And that's what I did . . . And when you can succeed, it's like wow-you can make people dream."


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