Celebrating National Aboriginal Day

By Everett Dorma Posted: June 21, 2017 2:00 p.m.

Participants at the annual Glen Anaquod Memorial Teepee Raising competition.
Participants at the annual Glen Anaquod Memorial Teepee Raising competition. Photo courtesy U of R Photography.

June 21 is National Aboriginal Day, a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

The University of Regina, located on Treaty 4 and 6 territories and the traditional homeland of the Métis, recognizes that Indigenous peoples are an important part of our past, present and future. The University’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan peyak aski kikawinaw - Together We Are Stronger recognizes Indigenization as an overarching priority.

“A key objective of the University of Regina's Strategic Plan is to ensure that wherever possible, First Nations and Métis cultures are reflected in all aspects of campus life, in everything from our curriculum to our campus design and the ceremonies that are part of Convocation,” says University of Regina President and  Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Vianne Timmons.

Indigenization efforts at the University are intended, among other things, to increase Indigenous student access to and retention in university, increase awareness of Canada’s colonial past, enhance the connections of the University to the ancestral and Treaty lands upon which it is situated, and incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into the curriculum.

Some of the activities undertaken in recent years to make the University a more welcoming place for Aboriginal students, faculty and staff include:

  • The establishment of an Executive Lead - Indigenization position that is responsible for promoting and leading indigenization efforts at the University;
  • Creating the Indigenous Advisory Circle, a volunteer group of First Nations and Métis faculty and staff that regularly advises the President and Vice-Chancellor on measures to ensure that the campus remains dedicated to and focused on meeting the needs of Aboriginal students, faculty and staff;
  • Expanding the Aboriginal Student Centre to provide a culturally appropriate studying and gathering place for our students;
  • Delivering workshops and presentations to faculty on ways to indigenize their curriculum;
  • Supporting and promoting Indigenous research focused on Indigenous ways of knowing. Several research centres and institutes reflect this in their projects and partnerships; and
  • Naming of the newest residence Kīšik Towers (pronounced KEE-zhick ), coming from the Saulteaux language, meaning “sky,” and renaming two others as Paskwāw Tower (pronounced pus- KWOW), the word for “prairie” in the Cree language, and Wakpā Tower (pronounced wak-pa), coming from the Dakota word for “river.”
As a result of these and other efforts, in 2016-17 the number of self-declared Indigenous students grew by 16% to 1,932 students (13% of all students) from Fall 2015, meaning that the total number of Indigenous students at the University and Federated Colleges has increased by 84% since Fall 2009. In addition, the nitôncipâmin omâ Student Success Program (OMA Program) delivered through the Aboriginal Student Centre has a success rate of over 90% retention from first year to second year for Aboriginal students.

“I am very pleased with these encouraging signs that our Indigenization efforts are working to support our Aboriginal students,” says Timmons. “I believe this success is the result of recognizing that Indigenization is not the exclusive responsibility of one faculty, administrative unit or group.  Rather, it is a journey we must all undertake to make the University a welcoming place for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”