Meet Professor Lynn Lavallée
Advocate and scholar, Professor Lynn Lavallée is a member of the E-Alliance scientific committee. Lavallée brings her academic expertise and practical perspective as an Indigenous leader and athlete to our team of scholars. Lynn Lavallée is Anishinaabe registered with the Métis Nation of Ontario.
Lavallée is the Strategic Lead, Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Social Work and a professor in the School of Social Work at Ryerson University. She has been active in Indigenous sport at all levels, from grassroots to high performance.
When Lavallée was invited to join The Hub, she saw this first-of-its kind research collaborative as an opportunity to increase participation and leadership opportunities for Indigenous girls, women, two-spirited, and trans individuals in sport. But she is also inspired by the ways in which the research and multidisciplinary collaboration could help to bolster already active Indigenous athletic programs in Canada.
“Sport and movement have always been important in our communities, long before colonization,” Lavallée points out – powwows and lacrosse not only embody elements of play, fun, teamwork and fitness, but sacred spirituality.
“I’ve seen Indigenous people from across the gender spectrum in sports for a very long time,” Lavallée says. “It’s just not in the mainstream. I’ve been involved in grassroots Indigenous sport for decades now.”
The North American Indigenous Games, the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, the Indigenous Coaching Awards, and the Aboriginal Sports Circle exemplify the talent and established sport institutions that Lavallee would like to see gain more profile and support through initiatives like E-Alliance.
“These great things are happening, but are they getting the profile and the support they need? It’s not like we need to start from scratch. There are so many Indigenous athletes, Olympians and champions in our communities who are helping deliver programs, but people aren’t aware of them,” Lavallee explains.
In her own research, Lavallée is working to create a library of the many Indigenous athletes who have made an impact in Canadian sport at all levels, from soccer standout and coach Dano Thorn in B. C. to gold medalist Alwyn Morris who raised an eagle feather on the podium at the 1984 Olympic Games to represent his culture and background to the world.
Lavallée is optimistic that the work happening through The Hub will help to highlight these and other examples of Indigenous sport culture to leverage funding. “It’s not only about making programs available,” Lavallée points out. “It’s about ensuring the programs are being led and executed by Indigenous coaches and leaders – they’re out there! Indigenous sport communities don’t require people outside to come in.”
Lavallée would also like to see further enrichment for girls’ programs in particular. “At the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, for instance, there are more boys who go to compete than girls. There’s the opportunity for girls, but we need more and increased participation.” In her own athletic experiences, Lavallée has witnessed this underrepresentation firsthand. She is a black belt in taekwondo and has participated in various levels of Indigenous competition; but too frequently there are not enough female competitors from a broad range of ages – and this goes beyond martial arts to other sports.
“Sport is fundamental to our community in so many ways,” Lavallée explains. “There has been a lot of upheaval this past year. Covid-19 has meant that many sports have been canceled or postponed. But champions of Indigenous sport are committed to ensuring that we recover from these setbacks, that Indigenous sport thrives beyond this pandemic and gets the funding it needs.”
Lavallée sees sport as an opportunity to support a community’s health, wellbeing and pride; she points to Canadian Sports Hall of Fame inductee Waneek Horn-Miller who in 2000 became the first female athlete from the Mohawk people to compete in the Olympics. “Wanneek Horn-Miller talks about how sport saved her life.” Since retiring, the former water polo player has advocated for sport as a tool to enrich the lives of Indigenous communities in Canada and around the world.
“I think this research collaborative will help to bring more voices to the table,” Lavallée says. “And I hope we work together to build up the Indigenous athletes and leaders we have today and make a more inclusive future, in particular for Indigenous girls, women, two-spirited, and trans individuals.”
To read some of Professor Lavallée’s work, please visit our publications page.