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.