Our most recent publication is entirely indigenous themed. From testimonies of intergenerational trauma to land rights and food security, this issue is solely focused on indigenous affairs, and features personal content written by Aboriginal students attending StFX.
While publication was timed to commemorate Mi’kmaq History Month, this issue is primarily intended to expose the realities experienced by indigenous persons both on campus and nation-wide that are so often left unaddressed.
In particular, we would like to emphasize the reality that, despite the remarkable efforts invested in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, many people still know very little about reconciliation, the ongoing movement to renew the relationship between First Peoples and other Canadians.
Closer to home, moreover, we believe that despite StFX’s recent support for reconciliation, the university is rather late in jumping on the ‘indigenizing’ bandwagon. An impressive list of guest speakers addressing indigenous rights and issues does not mitigate the fact that indigenous students are not adequately supported or that the number of indigenous faculty and staff on campus is significantly wanting. Raising the Mi’kmaq flag for 31 days of the year does not alter StFX’s long history of neglecting and marginalizing indigenous students and communities.
Yet at least with these steps, StFX, the self-acclaimed model for ‘university as it is meant to be’, has acknowledged that it may not be so perfect after all. While it is entirely too soon for self-congratulatory decoration, especially so long as faculty continue to squabble over whether to acknowledge unceded Mi’Kmaq territory in meetings, we are nonetheless making very slow progress in the right direction.
I should rephrase: the institution is making very slow progress in the right direction. Our Students’ Union is also taking baby steps toward reconciliation. After extensive lobbying on behalf of the Aboriginal and Students of African Descent Offices, O-Crew somewhat begrudgingly added 10-15 students of visible minorities to their team. They were relegated to their own committee, called ‘EBAE’ (Equity Before Anything Else).
This summer I had the opportunity to interview Mary Simon, an Inuit woman whose long and distinguished career has been dedicated to advocating for Arctic and indigenous rights both at home and abroad. During our conversation, I asked Simon about her understanding of reconciliation as a social movement. She gave the following response:
“[Reconciliation] is about people. Social issues are about people. When you talk about the development of a country, sometimes we tend to look at things that are related to people: the environment, the industry, community of development; but sometimes we forget that we’re actually talking about people.”
When it comes to atoning for a history of assimilation and alienation, reconciliation cannot be restricted to institutions. Our generation did not devise the residential school system, yet we are nonetheless faced with the responsibility of repairing a relationship damaged by centuries of racist and colonial discrimination.
In Simon’s profound words, “[Reconciliation] is not an indigenous issue. It’s a Canadian issue. As much as we’d like to think it’s an issue that’s related to a specific group of people, it’s not. It’s an issue that requires all of us to make a concerted effort to make it work.”
Changes at the institutional level come as a result of decades of advocacy by indigenous persons and communities that survived against all odds and intentions. Yet substantive change, change that is reflected in norms and conventions, will only occur alongside a collective shift in consciousness. In this regard, we cannot depend on our institutions; it is at a personal level that we will be most effective in refining the discourse.
We acknowledge that this issue is neither perfect nor extensive by any means. We also acknowledge that the demographic of our news team reflects that of campus as a whole. We do not intend to speak for indigenous students, but rather to speak with them, and to bring attention to certain projects and practices that deserve more recognition or scrutiny.
It is our hope, in partnership with the Aboriginal Students at X Society, that this issue will contribute to raising awareness about our past and our present, and generating potential for our collective future.