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Office of Aboriginal Initiatives

PEETIGWAY GREETING TERM–Peetigway (pea-te-gway, with emphasis on 2nd syllable) is a Michif word meaning: Come In


Representatives from Laurier join in the festivities at the 10th Annual Traditional Pow Wow on September 28th at St. Paul’s University College

Celebrating 10 years of community A cast of hawks circled the sky as the grand entry of the 10th Annual Traditional Pow Wow was concluding at St. Paul’s University College on the University of Waterloo campus Saturday September 28th, 2013. In 2004 Jean Becker and Melissa Ireland, now with Laurier’s Office of Aboriginal Initiatives, were at the University of Waterloo. Jean was the UW Aboriginal Coordinator and Melissa was a student and Jean’s assistant. In 2004 the Kitchener pow wow at the Aud was a fond memory, and with the exception of the Weejeendimin

Spring and Fall feasts, there was a dearth of Aboriginal cultural activities in KW. St. Paul’s at UW had a great space perfectly suited for a pow wow, an ideal gathering to connect the local Aboriginal and university communities. Without a checklist to guide them through the machinations of planning a large event, Melissa and Jean organized the first pow wow that we all enjoy today. Over the years many Laurier staff, faculty and students have taken part in a variety of ways. Jean continues to participate annually as the elder at the pow wow.

“It was great to see it continue after ten years, bringing campuses and local community together to celebrate and get involved.” MELISSA IRELAND


In this newsletter, published four times a year, we will share news about people, ideas, and activities at Laurier’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses. Every issue will feature a greeting term from a different Aboriginal culture. This issue the word is: Peetigway. We invite you to suggest a welcome or greeting term to be featured in future issues. INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Richard Wagamese..................................2 Professor profiles.....................................3 Community engagement........................3 Community outreach..............................4 Our staff....................................................4 Student centre.........................................5 Language fact...........................................5 Haudenosaunee Journey.........................6 Student success stories...........................8

Office of Aboriginal Initiatives | Newsletter

Premiere Issue • October 2013

What is the Aboriginal initiative? Laurier began developing an Aboriginal Initiative in 2009 with a part-time worker based at the Brantford campus and a committee of staff and faculty. That year, the Aboriginal Education Council was created with university administrators, staff, faculty, students and Aboriginal community members. Their purpose is to promote a positive educational experience and success for Aboriginal students at Laurier and to oversee the mandate from the Ministry of Education to close the gap in postsecondary education for Aboriginal people. The Office of Aboriginal Initiatives (OAI) was established in July 2010 with the hiring of a senior advisor: Aboriginal Initiatives, a position currently held by Jean Becker. This office is responsible for overseeing the development of Aboriginal services,

curriculum, internal relations and education in regard to Aboriginal peoples, cultures and issues across Laurier faculties and with building

to Aboriginal students in partnership with student services, learning services, the diversity office and many other departments and faculties across our campuses. “The only reason for our existence is Warm and welcoming spaces, the centres our students. That’s why we’re here. welcome all Laurier They are our future and they’re also students, staff and faculty to participate our present.” JEAN BECKER in cultural activities, to meet Aboriginal people external relations with Indigenous of many nations, and learn about and mainstream governments, Aboriginal issues. organizations and communities. Kandice Baptiste, the Aboriginal Aboriginal student support recruitment and retention officer coordinators at the Brantford was hired in 2011 and began a busy and Waterloo campuses were also schedule of recruitment across hired in 2010. Melissa Ireland is at Ontario, including into northern the Aboriginal Student Centre in fly-in communities in the winter. Waterloo and Bonnie Whitlow is at Our team was completed with hiring the Brantford house. The Aboriginal our administrative support worker, student centres provide academic, Laurie Minor, in 2012 who is based at personal, social, and cultural support the Waterloo campus.


Richard Wagamese: Speaking from the heart By Jean Becker Richard Wagamese speaks from the heart. His is a heart that has seen and experienced much in this life and has gained some wisdom from it all. You can feel it though reading his books, such as Indian Horse, Laurier’s inaugural choice for the Common Reading Program. To hear him speak in person is both moving and inspiring in a way that can never be precisely described. You had to be there. That’s the way it is with our storytellers, it is all experiential and in the moment. You feel it. All we can do later is gush about how deeply touched we felt in those moments.


What I can narrate for you, is that a group of us: students, faculty, alumni and community members, gathered at Laurier’s Seminary Chapel on Wednesday September 18th to hear Richard speak about his novel, Indian Horse, his life, and the journey of healing and storytelling. He spoke fearlessly and honestly about residential school, abuse, hope, hockey and redemption. Richard Wagamese, for those yet unfamiliar, is Ojibwe from Wabaseemoong First Nation in Northwestern Ontario and one of Canada’s foremost Aboriginal authors. He currently resides in Kamloops BC. His novel Ragged Company was

chosen for the 2013 Waterloo Region One Book One Community (OBOC) and while in town he was presented with the 2013 Canada Council Molson Prize in the Arts.

Office of Aboriginal Initiatives | Newsletter


Premiere Issue • October 2013


Dr. Carole Leclair is grateful for her connections to her roots and culture Every few years Dr. Carole Leclair makes the journey back to Vassar, Manitoba. It is the place in her memory and imagination that still nourishes her Red River Metis roots and culture. “That tiny village and the stories of generations of Metis kinship inflect and influence everything I do as an academic and as an urban Aboriginal person, “ she said. “I carry those old ones in my heart, in gratitude for what they continue to teach me”

Carole teaches in the Indigenous Studies option at the Brantford campus. She is currently involved in the process of changing the option to a program, which will result in a significant increase in the delivery of Indigenous curriculum at Laurier. She is one of the founders of the Hamilton Metis Women’s Circle (, a group that has been in the forefront of delivering Metis/Indigenous education in the region by holding cultural events, hosting speakers and working with youth, including in high schools in Hamilton.


Dr. Kathy Absolon-King or Minogiizhigokwe or Shining Day Woman Kathy Absolon-King is Anishinaabe kwe from Flying Post First Nation and her Anishinaabe name is Minogiizhigokwe which means Shining Day Woman. She has been a social worker for many years and loves working in education as a means to creating change. Kathy is committed to teachings of the land and facilitates connections and relationships back to the land. Her teachings and practice are influenced and guided by the teachings of Creation. Kathy attained her PhD from University of Toronto, O.S.I.E. in 2008 and has a passion


for Indigenous research methodologies. She is the author of the recently published book (2011) Kaandossiwin. How we come to know. Recent courses she has taught include Wholistic Healing Practices, Indigenous Research Methodologies and Indigenous Knowledges & Theory.

FSW Culture Camp

In early September incoming students to the Faculty of Social Work MSW Aboriginal Field of Study program are welcomed with a weeklong Culture Camp. The camp “prepares them for the year ahead by introducing them to the tools, medicines, philosophies and ceremonies used in wholistic healing practices.”

Laurier hosts High School Friendship Lacrosse Tournament Over 70 high school students from Six Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit participated in the fourth annual High School Friendship Lacrosse Tournament at Laurier’s Waterloo campus on Friday, October 4. In addition to a skills training session with professional lacrosse coaches from the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team, the Haudenosaunee National Women’s Lacrosse Team, and Laurier’s men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, the high school students toured the campus, met with Laurier students and members of the Laurier Aboriginal Student Association.

Weejeendimin Fall Feast The local Aboriginal community gathered at the Victoria Park Pavilion on Sunday September 22, 2013 to share in a community feast. The traditional feast takes place every spring and fall and is hosted by the Weejeendimin Native Resource Centre.


Office of Aboriginal Initiatives | Newsletter



Reaching out –

way, way out. 

Kandice in James Bay, heading to Kashechewan First Nation

Aboriginal students recruitment and retention officer, Kandice Baptiste is a member of the Aboriginal post -secondary information program (APSIP) which organizes tours to Aboriginal communities and schools across Ontario. In partnership with Laurier’s recruitment office Kandice also participates in the schedule of presentations in high schools provincially. Outreach includes events such as our annual High School Friendship Lacrosse Day and Ilaji: March Break Camp. Hosted on our Waterloo

campus, Lacrosse Day introduces high school students from Six Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit to Laurier for a fun day of Lacrosse skills and drills plus a campus tour. March Break camp, a unique program for local Aboriginal youth (8-15), exposes campers to the possibility of post-secondary education through a myriad of physical, social and cultural activities while giving them an opportunity to experience campus life. Similar programs are being planned for the Brantford campus.


Creative Native Mondays This fall semester students are invited to join us for Moc Mondays! An experienced beader, leather-worker, and jewelry maker are all on hand to help guide students as they bead, make vamps for an upcoming Laurier Sister’s in Spirit exhibit, then bead their own vamps and make their own mocassins!


Premiere Issue • October 2013

Kandice Baptiste is Mohawk, born and raised in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Laurier (2011). As Aboriginal students recruitment and retention officer she assists incoming students in the transition to university life, answers admissions questions, visits communities, and creates retention programming for current students. Jean Becker is of Innu, Inuit and English ancestry and a member of the Nunatsiavut Territory of Labrador. Jean has a Master’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Guelph. As senior advisor: Aboriginal Initiatives she works with a team of Aboriginal staff to create services, a welcoming space and curriculum for Aboriginal students at Laurier and advocate for them in the institution. Melissa Ireland is Anishnabe kwe from Curve Lake First Nation and holds an Honours BA in English Rhetoric and Professional Writing from the University of Waterloo. As Aboriginal student support coordinator for Waterloo campus, she provides specialized support and services to Aboriginal students at the Waterloo and Kitchener campuses. Laurie Minor is of mixed ancestry, Ojibway and British. She is currently working part time on her BA here at Laurier. As administrative assistant she assists with Brantford and Waterloo campus events, web pages, and administration of the Student Centres. Bonnie Whitlow is a Mohawk woman, Bear Clan, born and raised on the Six Nations reserve. She received her B.A. in Anthropology from McMaster University in 1996. As Aboriginal student support coordinator for Brantford campus, she provides specialized support and services to Aboriginal students at the Brantford campus.

Office of Aboriginal Initiatives | Newsletter

Premiere Issue • October 2013


Programs that inspire engagement Aboriginal Awareness Week Aboriginal Awareness Week is an annual celebration of Aboriginal cultures that takes place on both campuses. Aboriginal Awareness Week is an opportunity for students, staff, faculty and the community at large to participate and learn about Aboriginal cultures. Events range from roundtable discussions, craft workshops, speakers, traditional teachings, social events, and cultural exchange.

Brantford and Waterloo campuses. The ASA provides Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students a safe environment to express themselves, make friends, work and play together and learn more about Aboriginal cultures. With events ranging from cultural/spiritual activities to bingo and movie nights, the ASA creates community among Laurier’s Aboriginal student body and other interested students.

Soup and Fry Bread Lunches Both Brantford and Waterloo campuses host weekly soup lunches for students, staff and faculty. All are encouraged to come, enjoy a lunch and get to know each other. See our website for upcoming dates and times.

Aboriginal Academic Success Program The purpose of this program is to provide Aboriginal students with academic assistance regarding learning strategies and study skills in a culturally sensitive manner and in a safe and comfortable environment so that they can achieve their full academic potential. The program services range from Learning Circles, individual learning consultations, tutoring, learning strategies and study skills workshops.

Aboriginal Students’ Association The Aboriginal Students’ Association (ASA) is an inclusive club at Laurier’s

Visiting Elders Program Elders and Traditional Teachers share their knowledge and teachings with students, staff and faculty. Monthly sessions include sharing circles, workshops and one-on-one counseling. SEEDS Program The SEEDS Program is designed to increase the retention of firstyear Aboriginal students by providing a fund to those who engage in a wide variety of support services and activities to increase their connection to Laurier. All incoming students can find the information to apply online.

Aboriginal Student Centres Greetings ~ Ahniin ~ Sgeno ~ Shekon ~ Shekoli ~ Tansi ~ Kwey ~ Boozhoo

MARRIED Of the two words commonly used for “married” in the Mi’gmaw language, malie’wit (ma·li·ee·wit) is from the French word marier, and the other tepqatg (dep·hgatk), is an old Mi’gmaw word. Tepqatg has a base meaning of has stayed long enough or has reached the length of time necessary. That comes from the old custom of a young male staying and working with a young woman’s family to demonstrate how worthy a partner he would make. This is an example of information embedded in language.


Students are encouraged to connect with us in person and through social media.

187 Albert Street, Waterloo

111 Darling Street, Brantford




Office of Aboriginal Initiatives | Newsletter

Premiere Issue • October 2013

Haudenosaunee Journey creates connections Participants travel to three institutions to build Aboriginal and academic relationships When the bus rolled out of Brantford on May 14, the 24 passengers were a little unsure of what lay ahead. After all, the participants came from several different communities, many didn’t know one another well, and some didn’t know each other at all. But three days, three campuses and 1,100 kilometres later, bonds were formed, ideas shared and insights gained. The trip was called the Haudenosaunee Journey — Haudenosaunee being members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora nations. The aim of the journey was to develop stronger relationships between Laurier and educational leaders in the region’s Aboriginal communities, while learning more about the cultural, social and educational challenges of Aboriginal communities. The journey also provided a chance to learn more about Indigenous Studies programs and Aboriginal support services at other universities. The participants included representatives from the Six Nations, the Mississaugas of the New Credit and the Metis, along with Laurier faculty, staff and students from the Brantford and Waterloo campuses. The three-day itinerary included stops at the University of Toronto, Trent University in Peterborough, and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The idea for the journey came from Lesley Cooper, acting principal/ vice-president of Laurier’s Brantford campus: “It is important for Laurier as an educational institution to reach out to our Aboriginal neighbours and try to understand their heritage, their needs and their issues,” she said. Ava Hill, a member of the Six Nations elected council who has been involved in Aboriginal affairs at the national and local levels,


agreed: “Establishing relationships and networks — that’s what makes the world go around,” said Hill. “It is important that we take part in each other’s activities because that promotes understanding.” Andrea King-Dalton, acting director of education for the Mississaugas of the New Credit, also appreciated the opportunity to discuss issues related to Aboriginal education with staff and faculty from Laurier and from the host universities. “From the outside looking in, I think you need to be commended for engaging in dialogue,” she said. Laurier has been strengthening its Aboriginal support services over the past few years. In 2010, the university created the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives and appointed Jean Becker as senior advisor. A member of the Nunatsiavut Territory of Labrador, Becker had previously spent four years as the elder-in-residence with the Aboriginal Field of Study program at Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work. At the time of Becker’s appointment, Laurier President Max Blouw said: “Aboriginal youth are underrepresented in post-secondary

education, and there is a recognized need for universities to provide the necessary support so that Aboriginal students can reach their goals as individuals and as members of the larger Canadian society.” Support for Aboriginal programs is highlighted in the university’s Academic Plan, which “recognizes the unique heritages of Aboriginal peoples and supports the intentions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to preserve and express their distinctive indigenous cultures, histories and knowledge through academic programming and co-curricular activities.” As well, Laurier Brantford’s Strategic Plan includes a goal to deepen relationships with Aboriginal people and communities. The university has also invested in Aboriginal student recruitment and retention programs, and is reaching out to Aboriginal youth in the community through such programs as the ILAJI March Break Camp for those 8-15 and the annual High School Friendship Lacrosse Tournament, which draws students from the Six Nations and the Mississaugas of the New Credit.

Office of Aboriginal Initiatives | Newsletter

According to Kandice Baptiste, Aboriginal student recruitment and retention officer, Laurier had 90 undergraduate applicants in 2009 who identified their heritage as Aboriginal. So far in 2013, the university has over 200 self-identified Aboriginal students, and an estimated equal number who haven’t done so. Laurier currently has eight selfidentified Aboriginal faculty members and 16 staff members, Becker said. As for academic programming, Laurier offers an Indigenous Studies option at its Brantford campus as well as courses on various aspects of Aboriginal history, culture and politics at the Waterloo campus. Laurier also offers a Master of Social Work, Aboriginal Field of Study, through its Faculty of Social Work in Kitchener. The three-day Haudenosaunee Journey yielded many lessons and observations as the participants interacted with Aboriginal staff and faculty at the University of Toronto, Trent, and Cornell. Here are a just a few: • Representatives from the three host universities all emphasized the importance of providing specialized support services to attract and retain Aboriginal students. While the transition to university may not be a big challenge for some Aboriginal students raised in urban and suburban settings, it can be an enormous change for students raised on some of the more remote Aboriginal communities. • Post-secondary education is an effective way to empower individuals and communities. But even though Canada’s Aboriginal youth population is growing at three times the national average, university participation rates lag those of other Canadians. According to 2006 Census data, eight per cent of Aboriginal people in Canada had attained a university degree compared to 23 per cent of non-Aboriginal Canadians.


“It is important that we take part in each other’s activities because that promotes understanding.” AVA HILL, MEMBER OF THE SIX NATIONS ELECTED COUNCIL

• Representatives from all three universities said it was important to open Aboriginal social and cultural activities to non-Aboriginal students, staff and faculty as a way of building awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture and issues. • At U of T and at Trent, the Indigenous Studies professors and

In discussions at Cornell University

related academic support offices are located in the same general area as the Aboriginal support services, allowing for a convenient interaction between students, faculty and support providers. • Cornell has an impressive living-learning residence hall called Akwe:kon (a-GWAAY-go, from the Mohawk language), meaning “all of us.” It houses 35 students and is the centre of Aboriginal cultural activities and social gatherings on the university’s sprawling Ivy League campus.

Premiere Issue • October 2013

• Trent has a First Peoples House of Learning, which includes a distinctive, light-filled circular room with the word Ska’nikón:ra —skah-nee-GOO-rla, from the Mohawk language meaning: gathering our minds together as one— inscribed on a plaque in the entranceway. Trent has a First Peoples Performance Space, an outdoor sweat lodge and a large, functional teepee for informal uses, such as group discussions and cooking meals. During the Haudenosaunee Journey, many of the Aboriginal participants spoke their Indigenous languages when introducing themselves at each university. Sherri Vansickle, an Aboriginal support counsellor with the Grand Erie District School Board in Brantford, later spoke about the importance of practising and nurturing Aboriginal languages. In the spirit of this, Vansickle and Bonnie Whitlow, Laurier’s Aboriginal student support coordinator for the Brantford campus, were asked to sum up the Journey in Haudenosaunee terms. They offered the following three related words: Ka’nikonhrí:yo (gah-nee-goo-HRLEE-yo), which means: to keep the Good Mind and make good decisions; Sken:nen (SKAA-nuh), which means peace; and Ka’satsténhsera (gah-sut STUH-say-rla), which means power or strength. As the Haudenosaunee Journey rolled to an end, Lesley Cooper said she was pleased with the outcome. “This has been a fantastic journey,” she said. “I think we achieved better relationships and we learned what other universities offer in terms of Indigenous Studies and Aboriginal support services, and we’ve also learned more about what we do at Laurier in these areas and the potential we have to do more.”


Office of Aboriginal Initiatives | Newsletter

Premiere Issue • October 2013


Lacrosse Leads to PhD “Only a lucky few researchers get to see the impact of their work.”

A lacrosse stick led Allan Downey to university and a deeper understanding of his Aboriginal roots. As a kid who struggled in school, lacrosse gave him joy, purpose and a scholarship to an American college. It also kindled an interest in history and his Aboriginal heritage. After four years in the U.S., Downey enrolled in graduate studies at Wilfrid Laurier University where a vibrant Aboriginal support program inspired him to combine lacrosse, academics and a renewed sense of identity as a First Nations person. Now a PhD candidate studying the history of lacrosse, he credits Laurier for encouraging him to use his research as a tool for mentoring Aboriginal youth. “Laurier enabled me to use the history of the game I’m writing about to help re-empower Indigenous communities,” he says. “Only a lucky few researchers get to see the impact of their work.”

“Laurier supported me in asking, ‘How can I effectively take my research and help communities with it?’” ALLAN DOWNEY, NAK’AZDLI FIRST NATION,

Laurier Student Bursary Recipients of the SUNDANCe Award Rachael Simon, Ojibway, and Elizabeth McLeod, Cree, are the Laurier recipients for the 20122013 SUNDANCe Aboriginal Award, an award created to recognize Aboriginal students who give back to their communities. The award acknowledges their hard work and meaningful contributions towards building a thriving campus community for Aboriginal students at Laurier. Another honour for Elizabeth McLeod, Role Model for Healthy Living Elizabeth McLeod, a 4th year Honours Kinesiology student received the Southern Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative in recognition of her contributions to diabetes awareness and prevention for the Aboriginal community.


FACULTY OF EDUCATION The Office of Aboriginal Initiatives present AN EVENING WITH



Fascinated by the natural world Third year biology student and NSERC undergraduate research award recipient, Kristy Dockstader, Oneida Nation of the Thames, has for the past two summers done laboratory research. Her intention after graduation is to pursue a Masters in Biology.

WATERLOO CAMPUS ALL WELCOME | THERE IS NO COST TO ATTEND Artwork by Travis Murphy, published by Playwrights Canada Press 8

For event details, contact Spy Dénommé-Welch at

“I didn’t grow up on the reserve and was never very in touch with my heritage, but since coming to Laurier, I’ve met so many great people and learned so much about my heritage.” KRISTY DOCKSTADER

Laurier Aboriginal Newsletter Fall 2013  
Laurier Aboriginal Newsletter Fall 2013