Award-winning writer Selina Boan joins KPU as Indigenous Writer in Residence

Mon, Jan 29, 2024

Growing up without an Indigenous teacher to validate her experiences in the classroom had a significant impact on why Selina Boan decided to pursue a teaching career.

"Often, our knowledge is not recognized as equal or valuable," Boan says. "I feel very privileged to be part of the KPU community and have the opportunity to share and learn from others.”

Boan joined Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) as the Indigenous Writer in Residence for the Spring term. Her teaching philosophy centers on creating an environment that values and celebrates the diversity of students' backgrounds, perspectives, stories, and ideas.

"I tell my students that we can't begin our work without recognizing our histories and identities," says Boan. "I start my classes by understanding where we come from, what lands we originate from, what stories we hold, and who our ancestors are - all of these are so important to understanding our present roles and responsibilities.”

Boan believes that learning requires the exploration of identity. Language, she says, directly influences the way we see things. 

Selina Boan, Indigenous Writer in Residence for the Faculty of Arts at KPU.
Selina Boan, Indigenous Writer in Residence for the Faculty of Arts at KPU.

As a white settler-Nehiyaw (Cree), she recently embarked on her own language-learning journey with an aspiration to write a poem for her kookum (grandmother), whom she only knows through stories.

"The disruption in my Nehiyaw family is a symptom of residential schools and the ongoing oppression that affects Indigenous Peoples," she shares. "I am still working towards that goal, and I have not yet fully embodied the language. That is a part of my work, no matter what I do.”

Reflecting on her journey to becoming a writer, Boan shares that growing up, she saw storytelling as a superpower. There were few published indigenous writers and encountering Liz Howard's work was transformative and inspiring.

"I remember I was completely floored. I wanted to do what she was doing," Boan says.

Later, her debut poetry collection, Undoing Hours, won the 2022 Pat Lowther Memorial Award and the Indigenous Voices Award for Published Poetry in English.

Her work has been published widely, including in The Best Canadian Poetry 2018 and 2020. She is a poetry editor for CV2 Magazine and a beadwork artist.

As part of her residency at KPU she will offer virtual writing sessions, host in-person events on campus, and make visits to classrooms throughout the term.

Learning from students is the most special aspect of being a teacher, shares Boan.

"Part of the reason why I decided to become a teacher is because I like person-to-person connections, and something that I'm really excited about is learning - from students, faculty, and staff.”

And she has some advice for all young writers.

"It is important to remember that your stories are valid, sacred, and beautiful. And if you are in a place where you do not feel safe to share those stories, remember that it is okay to set boundaries and step away. Sometimes, there is an expectation that we should expose all our experiences. I want to affirm that it is entirely valid to protect your feelings and prioritize self-care.”

Also, Richard Pierre, Sdemokeltel, joined KPU this term as an Indigenous Knowledge Keeper in Residence to share his knowledge with students and the wider KPU community.