Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenization is never far from my mind.
On September 30, we recognized the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation with a variety of in-person and online activities including videos, a podcast, a memorial fire and an on-campus exhibit.
It was a meaningful and important day, but for Reconciliation to be truly successful, this cannot be a singular annual event. In fact, here at Algonquin College, Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenization is happening on our campuses in various forms almost every day. For starters, you can learn just by wandering the communal Indigenous spaces on our Ottawa campus, which include:
- Nawapon, our Indigenous Learning Commons on the first floor of the DARE District. It serves as a gathering place for the College community and a place to host events. It includes The Lodge, a circular space that can be used by smaller gatherings for meetings and events. Nawapon’s “green” roof includes Indigenous plants that grow naturally in local communities.
- Just outside, our Ishkodewan courtyard includes a Gathering Circle and fire-vessel – and can be used for special ceremonies and an outdoor classroom. In the green space surrounding the circle, Horticultural Industries students planted the largest Indigenous garden in Ottawa — with more than 100 plant species that have cultural and historical significance to Indigenous Peoples for their medicinal, nutritional or cultural properties.
- The Three Sisters Garden (located in the outdoor courtyard between E, H and D Buildings ) showcases beans, squash and corn – three symbolic crops that are central to the Haudenosaunee creation story.
- Three-storey Indigenous mural in the DARE District also reflects Indigenous creation stories
- Within the DARE District and around campus, we have incorporated Indigenous symbols reflective of Anishinābe culture and traditions.
Of course, our Mamidosewin Centre provides a gathering place for Indigenous students looking for support, services and community while also providing cultural programming and learning opportunities for all.
We are also proud that our Pembroke Campus is home to an Elder-in-Residence, Kampus Kokum and Campus Drumkeeper who all help to educate and bring traditions and resources to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Ceremonial drums were also created for our campuses in Perth, Pembroke and Ottawa.
At the highest levels of the College, we are proud of having a Vice President Truth, Reconciliation & Indigenization – the first position of its kind created at an Ontario College. Ron (Deganadus) McLester and his team are committed to assisting us become better allies and learners.
The College is in the process of developing a multi-year Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenization Strategic Plan, in consultation with the College stakeholders and our Indigenous community. Alongside the Students’ Association, we are also developing a Student Leadership Pack that will create opportunities for Indigenous learners to share and celebrate Indigenous culture with their peers, the College community and Indigenous partners.
In developing our new three-year vision for the College, we “incorporated Indigenous knowledge and storytelling to help ground and focus our work … and examine the world around us with both Western and Indigenous perspectives.” A number of College initiatives have relied on frameworks based on the Anishinaabe Medicine Wheel teachings to help govern the way we collaborate, think and effect change.
The College offers a variety of Indigenous academic programs, including the Pathways to Indigenous Empowerment and Indigenous Cook: Pre Apprenticeship program, and courses like Indigenous Peoples: Understanding and Reducing Victimization and Indigenous Studies. The Institute for Indigenous Entrepreneurship is part of our DARE District, a state-of-the-art facility, that helps indigenous students take their entrepreneurial ideas and turn them into reality through a combination of mentorship, peer support, and cultural connections.
We are also trying to have an impact on Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenization well beyond our campuses – working with partners across the province and the country. Last December, we started working with Employment and Social Development Canada, to lead the $7-million expansion of Indigenous Youth Development Canada, a program that brings First Nations communities together with educational institutions, government, and corporate stakeholders to help Indigenous youth acquire job-ready skills while extending their education.
We are very proud of the many different ways in which we support our Indigenous community and strive to become better allies and learners, yet we acknowledge there is still much more work to be done. We need to continue to integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and being throughout all that we do as a College. Rather than having a single goal related to Truth and Reconciliation or Indigeneity, we must be committed to adapting our processes and practices to honour and respect our institutional namesake and the traditional territory the College is situated on. I welcome your thoughts and ideas at email@example.com.
Learn more at www.algonquincollege.com/tri/