2021 Connection Award Winner: Carole Lévesque

Video: Carole Lévesque - Connection Award - 2021 Impact Awards


Carole Lévesque:

So, my research focuses on Indigenous Peoples. I have worked with Indigenous organizations, bodies and communities for close to 50 years now. I have had this great privilege in my career to continue to work, year after year, with people who are absolutely inspiring. And if I continue to do so today, it’s because I am still inspired. For me, winning the SSHRC Impact Connection Award is recognition for a collective effort, since it’s really the word connection that is central to this award for us. It’s recognizing the work of several people who, for over 20 years, around and within the DIALOG network, have been working to maintain a more just, more equitable and more sustainable dialogue between the academic world and the Indigenous world.

Carole Lévesque is quick to underscore that “the Connection Award is, first and foremost, a collective award. It recognizes teamwork that has been ongoing for 20 years now, thanks particularly to the efforts of five colleaguesFootnote * who came together for this project, and with whom I’ve worked for a long time. This award is also in recognition of the DIALOG network. It’s an excellent illustration of what I’ve accomplished throughout my career and what the network I created has accomplished.”

Of her many achievements, founding DIALOG, an Indigenous Peoples research and knowledge network, is Lévesque’s proudest. She created the network in 2001 to spark dialogue about Indigenous knowledge with key figures in the Indigenous community absent from the academic community and higher learning arenas; bring together Quebec and Canadian Indigenous studies researchers, who were at the time few and isolated within their universities and respective disciplines; and pull together scientific data generated by academic and Indigenous communities, to raise awareness and promote its use and dissemination in all sectors. Today, DIALOG boasts more than a hundred members, drawn equally from academic and Indigenous communities. Their expertise focuses on Indigenous Peoples from 14 countries. The network includes Indigenous Knowledge Keepers from 25 distinct bodies and communities.

“My role is to build bridges of understanding between cultures—of Quebec, Canada and Indigenous Peoples,” says Lévesque. “My first encounter with Indigenous Peoples was 50 years ago now, and I have grown from working with people from different Nations over the years.”

The eldest of eight children in a working-class family, Lévesque felt the pull to learn and study from an early age.

“I didn’t know what or how, but I knew my career path would involve the pursuit of knowledge,” she says. “It wasn’t until I was 18 that I discovered anthropology. That was the catalyst. To me, it meant I could study people and get to learn about different cultures.”

Chance and a fortunate chain of circumstances led Lévesque to discover a world and culture only kilometres from the small town she grew up in, and where she still lives today. Her first real research work experience as a student was with the Mohawks of the Kahnawá:ke (Kahnawákeró:non) First Nation.

Lévesque set out to acquire experience and knowledge on the ground. She has worked with each of the province’s Indigenous Nations and with the Inuit of Nunavik. In an interview published by the Institut national de la recherche scientifique in November 2020, she said she had been “lucky to be part of the first generation of Quebec anthropologists who, from early on, not only wanted to learn about Indigenous realities, but to get to know the people from within by working and collaborating closely with them. Spending time in Indigenous communities and territories has been essential in our training. And we’re not talking about one- or two-week visits; we’re talking about years of being physically present, joining in community life, living with host families, and studying various facets of local culture.”

Lévesque has lived in Indigenous communities for no less than six years.

“The secret behind DIALOG is that we didn’t try to bring Indigenous populations to the university,” she says. “We went out to meet them where they were so we could learn from them and their journeys, their history, their modernity, their dreams and their aspirations. That’s why I say this Connection Award is also in recognition of this shift regarding Indigenous Peoples.”

In addition to obtaining a PhD in social and cultural anthropology (Sorbonne Université, Paris), Lévesque also received Acfas’s Prix Marcel-Vincent, in 2011 (now called le prix Thérèse Gouin-Décarie), for her contributions to the development of Indigenous studies; and the Quebec government's Prix Marie-Andrée-Bertrand, in 2016, in recognition of the significant role she has played in reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

“Each and every day, I still learn from inspiring people who share with me their wisdom, serenity and knowledge,” she says. “I never thought of my career; my aim was to study and learn from human beings, no matter their culture. Today I can say that I’ve walked many paths through the taiga [boreal forest] and the tundra, the forests and cities, and the territories and villages of these, great First Peoples.”

About the award

The annual Impact Awards recognize the highest achievements in SSHRC-funded research, knowledge mobilization and scholarship, as well as the highest achievements resulting from a SSHRC fellowship awarded.

The Connection Award recognizes an outstanding SSHRC-funded initiative to facilitate the flow and exchange of research knowledge within and/or beyond the social sciences and humanities research community.

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