Aboriginal Education Week underway


Photo by Jessica Dik
Photo by Jessica Dik

Festivities are underway for Wilfrid Laurier University’s office of aboriginal initiatives’ sixth annual Aboriginal Education Week.

Beginning every year in the first full week of March, Aboriginal Education Week hosts events at both the Waterloo and Brantford campuses to facilitate engagement between the broader school communities and aboriginal culture.

“We get a lot of requests from faculty and community to help with education and we can’t always accommodate those requests because we’re primarily a student service,” said Melissa Ireland, aboriginal student support coordinator for the Waterloo campus.

“We say yes when we can, but this week is a great way to invite and include the campus community and culture.”

Working to broaden student cognizance of the week’s activities, as well as to capture interest and availability in a time when students are busy with academics, are the primary barriers faced by organizers in trying to boost engagement.

“I think unlike February and Black History Month, there’s you know a national degree of knowledge that February is that month. I think for us, we have national Aboriginal Day in June, and there’s a week in June, but our primary audience isn’t here in the summer semester,” said Ireland.

“This time of year can be a challenge because everyone’s in their final push of their last semester and trying to get things done, and it’s post-midterms but pre-exams, so we’re competing with a lot of other things for students right now.”

Aboriginal Education Week began in Waterloo on March 5 with Bridging Communities Through Song, a collaborative choir production put on by several local singing groups. Activities continued Monday with the raising of a teepee in the Quad, accompanied by a campaign to increase awareness of the historical and geographic implications of Laurier’s campus, which was followed on Tuesday by a free traditional lunch and a bus trip to a former residential school.

March 9 will feature ‘Drumology,’ an event held in collaboration with the Diversity and Equity Office to demonstrate drumming in both First Nations and African culture. March 10 has the greatest array of activities, ranging from a session addressing the trend of violence against aboriginal women to a storytelling session on traditional creation stories, a movie screening and a lecture by Laurier’s writer-in-residence, Drew Hayden Taylor, all offered free of charge.

On Friday a medicine bag making workshop will be held, after which the week will be concluded with a guest lecture by United Nations activist for Indigenous Peoples Oren Lyons. Though the week is an opportunity for the greater Laurier community to partake in exciting and educational activities, it serves the further purpose of allowing aboriginal students to see their culture present within the Laurier community.

“I think it’s important for our students to feel safe, not just at the aboriginal students centre being who they are, but on the other side of the street, on campus,” said Ireland.

“I think it’s a strength in identity, it’s a time to feel pride of culture and I think that overall it’s a really positive experience to engage with the university and know that Laurier is a safe and welcoming place for indigenous people.”

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