Ena Point with her three children and photo of late-husband Terry Point
Meet Ena Point, our Indigenous Relations Engagement Pedagogist at UBC Child Care. Find out how Ena, who returned to CCS in September 2021 in this newly-created position, is working with our CCS educators to weave Indigeneity into the incredible work they do every day.
Preparing to return from a parental leave in 2021, Enalyne (Ena) Point, hoped to contribute more to the Indigenous curriculum and programming in UBC Child Care Services (CCS). Having worked in CCS as an Early Childhood Educator and integrated Indigenous curriculum into the work at her centre, she felt there was an opportunity to help educators at each of CCS’s 37 child care centres start to weave Indigeneity into the work they do every day.
Ena is a first generation Filipina-Canadian who has lived in the Musqueam community for 18 years, with her late-husband Terry Point and their three children. “Being an integrated member of the Musqueam community is an honour that I am grateful for every day,” she says, adding that she has created and led many Indigenous outreach initiatives for people in the community, drawing on her background in archaeology, culinary arts, early childhood education, and as a Birthing Doula.
“I proposed to Karen that I could work with each centre’s unique philosophy and help decolonize the spaces, but also start Indigenizing the curriculum in the form of long-term explorations.” – Ena Point, Indigenous Relations Engagement Pedagogist, UBC CCS
Instead of returning to her previous position as an Early Childhood Educator, Ena pitched the idea of creating a new one to address the opportunity she had identified at CCS. Karen Vaughan, Director of UBC Child Care Services, remains grateful that she did. “Ena was already providing me with some guidance,” Karen says, “in how to speak to our educators about truth and reconciliation. Right away, I loved the idea to expand the scope of this important work across CCS.” Together, they developed the Indigenous Relations Engagement Pedagogist position, and Ena returned to CCS in that new role in September 2021.
In addition to starting a whole new chapter of Indigenous educational work throughout CCS, this new position allowed Karen to provide Ena with proper compensation for her leadership, mentorship, and work. Karen notes that the creation of this position supports Action 35 in UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan (ISP), which calls for recognition and compensation for those mentors who provide “professional advisory services to their colleagues in the development and delivery of Indigenous content and tools.”
I feel like Ena’s role is our pathway to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. She is our connection to the Musqueam community and through her valued work, we can help achieve and expand upon the goals and actions of the ISP, by extending Indigenous education into the pre-Kindergarten setting, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in our care.
Importantly, Ena’s role is focused on working with CCS educators, rather than directly with children. Ena and Karen identified from the outset the need to empower educators to build upon Ena’s teachings and develop their own capacity for integrating Indigenous explorations and learning into the unique programming at their centres.
“Being able to work with the educators and explain where I’m coming from and what I’ll be doing, and really get them involved, helps them understand the process and my perspective,” Ena says. “While I could come in and teach an Indigenous concept or activity, each centre has such a unique philosophy. They can really figure out what aspects to gear toward their children.”
I appreciate the time I have had getting to know Ena over the past few months. We have had a few talks about what our program at the Pioggia centre would like to know and share through Indigenous teaching and how she can help us reach our goals. I look forward to continuing this work, getting to know Ena better, and creating a thoughtful space with respectful Indigenous representation for our children and families.
Ena says that when she started in September 2021, she hit the ground running, sending out weekly Indigenous Insight newsletters to CCS educators. Her newsletters cover a wide range of subjects, “topics that my husband and I would talk about in-depth, and we would say ‘if only non-Indigenous people knew.’” While the newsletters don’t shy away from challenging subjects, Ena also thinks it important to add in a dose of humour too.
She also got started right away on a listening tour at the child care centres, spending time observing and speaking with educators. During her visits, she asks educators about where they are on this journey of truth, reconciliation, and decolonization; where they’re comfortable and where they’re not; what they want to know; and more. These opportunities to hear from educators help Ena develop materials that support staff who are at all comfort levels and stages of their own learning journeys.
Where educators may have hesitated to step into this work before, out of concern for getting things right or wondering how to do so respectfully, “everyone has been really receptive and keen to incorporate Indigenous concepts into what they’re doing,” Ena says.
Ena also started a series of “medicine walks” in December. During these hour-long walks, she takes small groups of staff into the nearby forest and offers an opportunity for “letting things go and asking the forest to let it go for you. In a good way.”
“Ena has brought a calming of the peripheral nervous system for quite a few of us; we’ve been under an incredible amount of stress over the last two years and her good medicine, her forest walks, her Indigenous Insights, have provided us with something else to think about and grounded us back into the importance of the work that we’re doing.” – Karen Vaughan
A future project that Ena is keen to start working on is “Tea Talks,” where she will bring small groups of educators together around a fire for tea, food, and conversations about the content she has shared in her newsletters – an initiative grounded in Musqueam culture and social life.
Additionally, Ena plans to create an Indigenous library at CCS, from which CCS educators can borrow books to try out with the children at their centre – or adult fiction and non-fiction books to support their own learning and journeys.
The third major project on the horizon, which Ena is hoping to launch this spring, is a Butterflyway project in collaboration with both Musqueam and the David Suzuki Foundation to help further integrate concepts of land stewardship into learning at CCS.
Takeaways: hope for the future
When asked what she hopes the children will take away from their experiences learning about Indigeneity at CCS, Ena says “the biggest thing is the acceptance and empathy for all people, regardless of colour, ethnicity, gender orientation, or outward appearance; plus knowing whose land they stand on. Finding a love for the land, and thus becoming a steward of the land.”
Ena adds that she is comforted in knowing that the children will grow up being informed about Indigenous people and topics so that later in their lives they won’t need to say ‘I never learned that growing up’ – and because of that, “history will not repeat itself.”
“For me, with children, creating empathy and compassion are one of the most important things, along with creating a sense of stewardship for and love of the land, which is a very important aspect of Indigenous culture…We are trying to instill some very basic concepts of love and understanding. Hopefully that grows with them.” – Ena Point
What we can all do
Many of us are thinking about how to integrate the work of truth and reconciliation into our lives and work. There are many ways to do so, unique to each of us; here are some suggestions:
- Learn how to pronounce the names at tə šxʷhəleləm̓s tə k̓ʷaƛ̓kʷəʔaʔɬ, our newest student residence at UBC.
- Learn more about Musqueam language and culture, along with the names at Totem Park student residence.
- Read UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan.
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.
- Visit the Totem Park residence commonsblock to view a permanent exhibit with information about Musqueam history, language, and culture.
- Visit the Museum of Vancouver’s c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city exhibit.
Ena also has the following recommendations for what we can all do, which go beyond the museum walls and ask us to do the more challenging, but more meaningful work of connecting with our own hearts and minds.
- Look inside. “Look inside yourself first, with brutal honesty. Do you truly want to learn? Are you open to reading and hearing about the injustices inflicted upon Indigenous peoples – and Indigenous people rising up and fighting for the survival of their future generations?”
- Learn. “Learn about the history of the unceded lands on which you stand. Take a walk around the campus and visualize what the geography of the land would have looked like, if you lifted the layers of UBC up. Ask yourself what made this area so important to the Musqueam people.”
- Read. “Read Indigenous topics that interest you. Anything that gets you sparked and interested in wanting to learn more.
- Confront silence. “When the topics get too heavy, and you feel the urge to turn away from the knowledge, experiences, and stories, remember that silence is one of the most important tools for colonization and oppression. It wasn’t too long ago that all the stories were swept under the rug and not acknowledged. So read, discuss, and speak up for a better understanding of the past – and an informed hope for the future.”
“UBC is layered above the rich history of the Musqueam people stretching back to time immemorial. The stories are written on the land and should be acknowledged and respected. It is my hope to work towards strong partnerships with Musqueam, honouring our reciprocal knowledge by learning how to weave both histories together in an honest way.” – Ena Point