Brock to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day while recognizing there’s still work to be done

NOTE: The Thursday and Friday events planned for Indigenous Peoples Awareness Week at Brock University have been cancelled out of respect for those mourning the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.

It’s a time to reflect on how far things have come and how much further they still have to go.

In addition to honouring the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples on Monday, June 21 for National Indigenous Peoples Day, the Brock community is taking the entire week to celebrate and learn while also recognizing there is still work to be done.

To bring people together while continuing to follow ongoing COVID-19 safety protocols, Aboriginal Student Services (AbSS) has planned more than a dozen virtual events for Indigenous Peoples Awareness Week. The events will welcome all members of the Brock community from Monday, June 21 to Friday, June 25 to learn about a wide range of topics such as Inuit history and culture, how to cook blueberry fry bread, and traditional Indigenous medicine.

Along with organizing the week’s events, AbSS Director Sandra Wong said members of Brock’s Indigenous communities and their allies are also taking time to celebrate many of the ongoing large and small steps that have been taken in recent years as part of the University’s commitment to Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation.

“Having former Chancellor Shirley Cheechoo and President Gervan Fearon being so committed to making Indigenization and decolonization one of the University’s strategic priorities has opened so many doors,” she said.

But many small changes have made a difference as well. Wong said that along with enhanced programming, like the events on offer next week, changes as simple as the installation of swipe card access for the AbSS office have enhanced availability of the space for students who needed it when on-campus learning was taking place.

“Indigenous students need that support and people in those roles that are consistent,” she said. “They need to know there are people like them here. We are here to watch over those students and to guide them and nurture them.”

Neuroscience student Ryanne Logan said she continues to benefit from the care of the AbSS team, and has taken notice of the University community’s commitment to embracing Indigenous students.

“Coming to Brock in my first year, I never would have imagined the kind of opportunities being available to me as a First Nations student relating to my passion for Indigenous health, decolonization and reconciliation,” she said. “The future of Brock’s commitment to decolonization is evident, especially with the addition of a teaching lodge for Indigenous ways of knowing this year.

“However, we should not stop here,” Logan said. “This is only the beginning of a long road to decolonization and reconciliation at Brock University. Nevertheless, I am still proud as an Indigenous student here to see the necessary changes slowly start to be made in the right direction.”

Aboriginal Events Co-ordinator Cindy Biancaniello said many of the positive changes come from the partnerships taking place around the University, which along with featuring in some of the event offerings next week, regularly see offices and Faculties seeking guidance from the University’s Indigenous communities as they teach and learn together.

“Now more than ever, we have people coming to us to discuss how they can appropriately implement Indigenous engagement and incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing,” she said. “For so long it was easy for people in the academic space to start teaching about something they knew little about, but in recent years we have seen real change. From Campus Security Services and the Experiential Education team to the Department of History and the Faculty of Health Sciences, so many folks are contacting us and it’s what we want.”

Brock University President Gervan Fearon said the University will continue to take tangible steps forward as it partners with and learns from Indigenous communities.

“As we prepare to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, Brock University stands committed to fostering a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization,” Fearon said. “We are putting this commitment into action by introducing Indigenous research grants, supporting cultural events, and fostering additional academic programming and student supports, as well as Indigenous faculty recruitment as we strive to continue to grow together and as we honour and learn from Brock’s Indigenous communities throughout the year.”

Going forward, Fearon said the initiatives he mentioned are in good hands, thanks to guidance from Brock’s Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement Robyn Bourgeois.

“Dr. Robyn Bourgeois has been involved and assisted in informing the needed steps and actions taken along with other members across the University,” he said. “Together, we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day.”

Bourgeois, who will be involved in Brock’s inaugural Indigenous Leaders Speaker Series event taking place Monday, June 21, said it’s important for everyone in the University community to celebrate and learn about the histories, cultures and experiences of Indigenous Peoples, both during the week of celebrations and going forward.

“As Murray Sinclair famously proclaimed about Indian residential schools, ‘education got us into this mess and education will get us out of this mess,’” she said. “Indigenous or not, we are all treaty people here in Canada and each of us has a responsibility to learn not only about the negative historical and ongoing impacts of colonialism on Indigenous communities, but also about Indigenous resilience and excellence.

“Education is fundamental to the processes of decolonization and Indigenization and this week offers a critical opportunity for learning.”

As the celebrations commence and the virtual events get underway, Wong said a key way for members of the Brock community to continue to honour Indigenous communities is to commit further to partnerships and education.

“Brock students are being done a disservice if they aren’t taught the true history of what happened to our people,” she said. “We don’t want them to carry the responsibility for past injustices, but they need to teach the history and make staff and faculty understand. It’s not about blame, it’s about education, and we hope there is the same commitment to Indigenized and decolonized education going forward as there has been in recent years here at Brock.”

To learn more about AbSS and the Indigenous Peoples Awareness Week virtual events mentioned above, visit the Sharepoint link on the AbSS Facebook page.

Indigenous Peoples Awareness Week virtual events and resources:

Monday, June 21 — First Nations Day

Traditional Opening — 10:15 to 10:30 a.m. Watch here.

Introductions and Teaching Lodge ceremony, including discussing the significance of the Teaching Lodge — 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Watch here.

Lunch and Learn with Mac: Indigenous Jeopardy game — noon to 1 p.m. Watch here.

Bobby Henry: What National Indigenous Peoples Day means to me from a First Nations perspective — 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Watch here.

Inaugural Indigenous Leaders Speaker Series event to highlight Cheekbone Beauty — 7 to 8 p.m. Sign up here.

Additional resources recommended by event organizers to complement the day:

N’we Jinan Artists: DREAMCHILD — YouTube video

Information on First Nations, Inuit and Métis books — Website

Tuesday, June 22 — Métis Day

Jayne Morrish: What National Indigenous Peoples Day means to me from a Métis perspective — 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Watch here.

Lunch and Learn with Sam: Making blueberry fry bread — noon to 1 p.m. Watch here.

Additional resources recommended by event organizers to complement the day:

History of the Métis Jig Dance — YouTube video

The Flower Beadwork People — YouTube video

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle — Book information

Wednesday, June 23 — Inuit Day

Lunch and Learn with Cindy: Inuit History and Culture — noon to 1 p.m. Watch here.

Additional resources recommended by event organizers to complement the day:

Robert J. Flaherty: Nanook of the North (1922) — Film

Igloo building — Youtube video

Winnipeg Art Gallery tour — YouTube video

Nelson Naittuq Tagoona — Qaggiavuut! — Website about beatbox throat singing

Uqalurait by John Bennett and Susan Rowly — Book information

Thursday, June 24 — Student showcase

James Gowland: Discussing experiences of Indigenous students at Brock — 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Watch here. 

Additional resources recommended by event organizers to complement the day:

Decolonization and Indigenization in the classroom — YouTube video

Cooking by students for students — Easy air fryer fry bread — YouTube video

Cooking by students for students — Easy banana bread muffins — YouTube video

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmer — Book information

Friday, June 25 — Medicine and celebration

Medicine teachings with Abiidaasmosede (Peter) and visiting Elders Ida and Melba — 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Watch here.

Lunch and Learn with Cindy and visiting Elders Ida and Melba: Discussing Inuksuit — More than just a stack of stones — noon to 1 p.m. Watch here.

Traditional closing with Abiidaasmosede (Peter) and visiting Elders Ida and Melba — 1 to 1:30 p.m. Watch here.

Additional resources recommended by event organizers to complement the day:

Traditional Indigenous medicine presentation with Dr. Nicole Redvers — YouTube video

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