Daughter of Durin*:
My name is Andrea Oakunsheyld and I am a curvy, bigender/trans, neurodivergent, queer woman born on the traditional, ancestral, and stolen lands of the xwməθkwəyə̓ m (Musqueam), səlilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and Swwú7mesh (Squamish) nations. I come from the MacKay clan of Scotland, the O'Farrell clan of Ireland, and the Eder and Swoboda Houses of Austria. When he was 19, my dad changed his name to Thorinn Oakunsheyld, emulating the Dwarf King Under the Mountain from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Thorinn Oakunsheyld was the next king in the Line of Durin, hence my story's title, "Daughter of Durin". All of my section titles are quotes from The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings! Like the mountains, I seek to be resilient through adversity; to be shaped continuously by my environments; and to stand tall and grounded within myself.
My path to planning has not been linear, but has been an accumulation of moments from my life. My first memory that has influenced my approach to community is a friendship that I held in preschool in North Vancouver. I had different friends in preschool but really enjoyed playing with James, especially because it was often just the two of us. One day I came home from school and told my mom that I went with James to see a lady. She asked me “what lady?”, so I told her that I was invited to go with James to a room with a lady who asked us questions. What I didn’t know is that James was autistic and that the school was trying to find out more about how he processed. He was non-verbal with many people, but I didn’t know this because he always talked to me when we played. I was asked to come with him to this meeting to gauge his abilities and developments in a way that recognized his preferences and context. James was the first person that made me think about the strength of connection and how we can impact people through those connections.
I have collected many moments in my life since this friendship which have led me to understand the importance of community, solidarity, and connection. Many of these moments were gathered during my undergraduate education at the University of Calgary, where I pursued degrees in Urban Studies and English.
I have been lucky enough to have had community members invest their time into my growth and I look for opportunities both to learn further and to pass on what has been gifted to me. These moments have culminated in a commitment to activism, working in human rights with a focus on Indigenous, women's, and LGBTQIA.2S+ rights. I have had the privilege to work in solidarity with Indigenous communities on issues such as the Site C Dam, the Mount Polley Mine Disaster, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit. Being a Fieldworker with Amnesty International has also pushed me beyond my focal issues, and I have been honoured to support work being done by the Rohingya, Tibetan, Uyghur, Sudanese, and Iranian communities.
Through activism I have learned that people and communities facing marginalization and violence are the experts in their own experiences. I have learned how to connect with my own experiences to empathize with and hold space for others, wherever they may be on their journey. As I reflected on my love of cities, urbanism, and people, I began to ask where activism and urbanism can come together- I arrived at planning as my answer. I applied to UBC's School of Community and Regional Planning because of their unique option to concentrate in Indigenous Community Planning. My current research is on what intersectional planning looks like with Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and planning as its foundation.
As my story has progressed through all of these moments and intersected with the stories of others, I have come to be known for my critical thinking, empathetic approach, focus on equity, holistic mindset, thoughtful facilitation, and my ability to synthesize complex types of information into grounded ideas.
*In J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit", the Line of Durin refers to the ruling blood line of Dwarves. All of my section titles are references from "The Hobbit" or "Lord of the Rings".