Laurier hosts conference on indigenous knowledge

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Photo by Madeline McInnis

National Indigenous Peoples Day was 21 June and festivities were held for the local indigenous community in the Victoria Park Pavilion.

“It’s a day for indigenous people to celebrate who we are,” said Laura Barry, masters student in the faculty of social work.

The event featured traditional costuming, a community feast, and speeches. The event had a large attendance from all ages. It also featured drumming from the Cedar Hill Singers, who were offered tobacco to come and perform.

The pavilion was decorated with both traditional indigenous symbols and artifacts and craft vendors were also selling their work. Furthermore, there were booths and signage from the sponsors and signage calling for reconciliation.

“Our goal was to bridge community and organizations,” said Barry. This event was part of Barry’s practicum and was run with the Centre for Indigegogy. People from the local indigenous community were invited to attend with their families.

According to a press release from Laurier, the event was sponsored by Laurier, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Laurier Centre for Indigegogy, Conestoga College and the Healing of the Seven Generations.

“Institutions like Laurier bridge the community because it can often be siloed and it’s really important to be able to come together as an indigenous community, especially in KW,” she continued.

Barry is completing her program in indigenous studies and, like most people in this particular program, has indigenous ancestry herself. She particularly stressed the importance of representation in the community for events like these where indigenous community can be proud of their heritage and collective history.

The conference aimed to spread indigenous teachings and stories within the community, using the Laurier academic buildings as a broader teaching area than the traditional academics that students may be used to.

“In the past, things like this have been shunned or not allowed. So [we’re] just letting the world and this area know that we’re here and we’re vibrant,” she said. Events like these help to normalize and celebrate indigenous heritage that has been suppressed.

Beyond the evening celebrations, Laurier also hosted a two day conference on indigenous knowledge. This took place on 23-24 June at the Laurier Kitchener campus through the faculty of social work.

Barry stated that this was also functioning as an “after Canada 150” conference. Last year, on the 150th anniversary of confederation in Canada, the issue of Canada’s “birthday” and “founding” were hotly contested, as indigenous communities were on Canadian land long before 150 years ago.

The conference aimed to spread indigenous teachings and stories within the community, using the Laurier academic buildings as a broader teaching area than the traditional academics that students may be used to.

“We have a bunch of local indigenous knowledge keepers that are coming to do presentations and workshops for the indigenous community, and the non-indigenous community as well, just to bridge knowledge,” Barry said on the conference.

The conference had two keynote speakers, Peter Isaacs and Banakonda Kennedy-Kish Bell, who both spoke on themes of knowledge and stories of indigenous people.

Though these events were intended for people with indigenous heritage, for students without indigenous heritage, Barry encouraged allyship and education on indigenous issues to continue to bridge the gap with the indigenous community.

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