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A selfie of Jessica Bomberry, wearing a floral shirt with large plants in the background

Grundy Scholar Jessica Bomberry says Indigenous language education benefits not just the individual but whole communities

Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies Jessica Bomberry has been named as Laurier’s second Grundy Scholar. Bomberry is a member of the Cayuga nation whose research focuses on language and cultural preservation within the Six Nations of the Grand River territory and surrounding Haudenosaunee communities. 

First established in 2022, the Grundy Scholar position is a four-year role that aims to further Indigeneity at Laurier with outstanding Indigenous educators contributing to undergraduate and graduate teaching. The first Grundy Scholar, Keri Cheechoo, was named in 2023.  

Grundy Scholars help build and foster relationships and connection to Indigenous communities and act as role models for Indigenous students and researchers, while producing and sharing knowledge and research on matters that specifically impact Indigenous communities locally, nationally and internationally. 


Sgę́:nǫ’ swagwé:gǫh! (Hello everyone). "Ga̱hędí:yo:" nih gyá:sǫh ("Nice Gardens" is what my name is), ganyáhdęh niwagesyao’dę:’ (I am from the turtle clan) ne’ gwá:toh Gayogo̱hǫ́:nǫ’ niwagehwęjó’dę: (and I am a member of the Cayuga nation. Oswé:gę’ dwagáhdę:gyǫ’ (I am from Ohsweken). Dekni’ dewagwiyáę, de̱hadiyáhse’ (I have two sons). Agatsę:nǫ́:ni: tsęh ęgadaihǫnyá:nih nę́:gyęh ohsrá:de’ (I am happy to be teaching this year). Ǫdaihǫnyá:nih, Ǫgwe’shǫ́:’ah, Ǫgwehǫ:wehnéha’, Ǫnǫhgwatra’shǫ́:’ah ne’ gwá:toh Tsęh Niyagwawęnó’dę ne’ i:h agadewayę:sdǫhǫ́:gye’ (I study Education, Sociology, Indigenous Studies, Traditional Medicines and my language).  

I first wanted to introduce myself in language, as this is how we formally greet one another in my culture. My English name is Jessica Bomberry and I am from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. As a teenager, I was "stood up" as a faithkeeper (traditional leader) in my community. This is a responsibility I hold dear to my heart and try my best to fulfill. I was born into the Cayuga nation and Turtle clan, under the Haudenosaunee traditional chief title "Hagyadrǫ̱hne:’". I currently hold the female faithkeeper/helper position under this chieftainship title and am responsible for upholding Haudenosaunee ceremonies, language and culture. My role also includes being a political liaison between the Cayuga, Turtle people and the hereditary chiefs and clanmothers, bringing the peoples' opinions to the council and making sure their voices are being heard. This role requires me to be involved in political relations between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council and many levels of Canadian government including band councils, municipalities, provincial governments, the federal government and international political entities.   

I grew up on the Six Nations reserve, attending English elementary school and Cayuga immersion high school. My early educational opportunities opened my eyes to the ways education effects our thinking. In English school, I felt very much indoctrinated by the "Canadian system.” When I left I knew nothing of what it meant to be Haudenosaunee. As an immersion student, I was able to "live Indigenously" every day all day for the first time ever, freeing my mind to vision towards a better future for myself and the future generations of Cayuga, Turtle people to come. This was also where I started my language journey, a process that would be a lifelong effort and one that has shifted my thinking dramatically.  As an academic, I focused my studies on how I could improve immersion education for children and adults in my community based on these experiences.  

I have had the pleasure of attending three amazing universities and two enriching apprenticeships throughout my education, a pathway uncommon for most. My first degree was spent studying Sociology and Indigenous Studies at McMaster University. My research during this time was focused on understanding the colonial pressures I was witnessing daily in my home community and the challenges present on-reserve. Following this degree, I immediately entered the teaching field and obtained a Bachelor of Education from Queen's University through the Indigenous Teacher Education Program. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Queen's and followed this up with a Master of Education focusing on Haudenosaunee pedagogy. I was curious about how we could, as educators, reclaim the ways in which we think, learn and teach naturally through Indigenous philosophies and value systems. This research led me to my language, looking at the ways in which we "lost our minds" to the colonization and the benefits of language immersion education within the "reclamation" process. I had seen this phenomenon in my own life and wanted to tell the world through my master's project the ways in which language benefits not just the individual but has a whole community impact when supported properly.  

While completing my Master of Education, I experienced a dramatic shift in motivation while working with two great professors out of the University of Victoria for an elective course. These professors encouraged me to get out of the classroom and get back to the land, while speaking my language. They both had done intensive research on the benefits of Indigenous resurgence practices and encouraged me to reject Western ideas of education completely if my goal was to truly understand Haudenosaunee thinking and learning. With this encouragement, I began an apprenticeship program for Haudenosaunee healers alongside the Traditional and Western medical team at Juddah's Place here at Six Nations. Eight of us apprenticed under a Master Traditional Medicine Practitioner named Elva Jamieson, learning Cayuga language and traditional healing practices. This was by far my most rewarding educational experience, all on the land, all in the language and completely hands-on learning, the way Haudenosaunee people think and learn naturally.   

After my experience with on-the-land learning, I went back to the language, obtaining a Bachelor of Ǫgwehǫ́weh Languages from Six Nations Polytechnic. After completing this program, I was one of eight selected to be in the first-ever Advanced Cayuga Language Immersion program, Agwasgo̱hǫwanahta’ (We Are Extending Our Branches), led by the incredible Haudenosaunee linguist, Haǫhyakehte Deer. This immersion program was the second-most influential experience in my educational journey, bringing the language into my thinking and allowing me to understand the world through a cultural lens for the first time. Becoming a speaker of the language allowed me the opportunity to finally reclaim my mind from colonial pressures and understand the world through Haudenosaunee eyes and ears. I was able to continue my language learning, with Haǫhyakehte within the Honours Bachelor of Ǫgwehǫ́weh Languages degree at Six Nations Polytechnic, solidifying my understanding of the language and further motivating me towards research in this area.  

Haudenosaunee languages are extremely endangered currently, while new findings point towards language acquisition being a solution for risk reduction in Indigenous communities. One of my research goals as the Grundy Scholar is to help my own community understand the benefits of language education for our little ones, youth and Indigenous adults looking to reconnect back to culture. Currently, as a teacher and community member, my focus is language and cultural preservation. It is my great honour to be named the Grundy Scholar at Wilfrid Laurier University. This opportunity will allow me to further research the best practices for language and cultural preservation within the Six Nations of the Grand River territory and surrounding Haudenosaunee communities in the hopes this will aid in risk reduction for future generations.     


Jessica Bomberry 

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