Many of Huron’s students, faculty, and administrators feel strongly that Huron should do more to address Indigenous issues on campus. Though my work is a reflection of student interests and I am responsible only to students (I love having ~1100 bosses️) faculty and administrations can be strong resources to partner with on projects. Realistically, a lot of the change required will fall on the shoulders of faculty and administration, and the HUCSC can act as a force of lobbying with student consultation. Huron and the HUCSC is reflecting as settler institutions with colonial histories on the path to Truth and Reconciliation and what our role is in the journey; as this is one that comes from students, but ultimately requires the collaboration of many parties to become effective. For this issue, my executive team and I feel that the more people we can have supporting our efforts, the better. So far, my work in this area has been a lot of reading, meeting, and event-attending.
I’m lucky in that I am surrounded by field experts. My relatives, fellow students, and professors have dedicated so much of their time and efforts to research indigenous history and what it means to be an indigenous person living in Canada today. FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social Science) just passed xxxx. Some examples of what I am reading are linked at the bottom of this post. I want to educate myself as much as possible about the issues that indigenous students face, and that starts with understanding Canada’s history. Then, I started looking into what other organizations are doing to take steps toward truth and reconciliation. Next, I met with eight people to gather their thoughts and feelings and ideas on this issue. These people included Indigenous students, professors, and administrators. We brainstormed the many many ways that the HUCSC can be involved in Truth and Reconciliation efforts, and we are continuing to work to narrow down what action would be the most effective. In this process it has been crucial to consult indigenous voices, especially students, and ask how we can meet their needs as we re-evaluate Huron’s direction.
One thing that I would like to note is that these issues we want to tackle are complex, systemic, and emotionally-exhausting. As an extremely empathetic person, I find it particularly draining to read about Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop. I want to thank my team members for their work on this topic so far. I know it is hard to learn about Canada’s history. It is so uncomfortable. I have been personally grappling with it since I decided to take this deep dive. I feel like there is a hurdle that one needs to overcome before they can truly become an advocate and ally for indigenous issues. The first time you hear a really detailed land acknowledgement, it can leave you feeling a little grey, and confused. Continued exposure to this advocacy for education eventually led me to the other side of the hurdle where I feel that there is hope and action to be taken, and some clarity, and less hopelessness.
One thing that I keep mentioning is that my discomfort doesn’t trump centuries of mistreatment, marginalization, and racism. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not your fault that these atrocities happened. But it is our responsibility to reflect on how we can move forward as both Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous persons. I feel a deep sense of gratitude when I think about how many amazing and empathetic people there are at Huron. These people are connecting with local First Nations communities, studying Canadian history, and putting on educational programming that is to everyone’s benefit. That’s leadership (with heart).