Connecting native student Maritimers

Zach Simonson (Kehinde Akinsanya/AQ)
Zach Simonson (Kehinde Akinsanya/AQ)

Only a month ago Zach Simonson was a man without a mission. After direction from his native studies professor, he was appointed as STU’s Native Student Council president.

“I grew up with her so she knew me pretty well so she figured I was a good person to pass the torch on to,” said the second year native studies major.

Student council positions are officially elected, but when uncontested it seems that it’s become tradition for the Native Student Council to pass the presidential torch to a chosen successor. The previous NSC president, Shaunessy Mackay, received the torch from the president before her and even his native studies professor told him that they had received it the same way, said Simonson.

For Simonson, it seems his role as president of Native Student Council was meant to be. Simonson’s parents were always into politics. His mom joined her reserve’s council and his father, Noah Augustine, became chief of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation in 2004 and was accredited with building the Heritage Park over the Augustine burial mound.

When he was younger, Simonson participated in his reserve’s politics as the youth leader of his reserve’s chief council. On his own time, he has attended courses in Ottawa on leadership and cross-cultural counseling and participated in various fundraisers.

The Student Council currently hosts an online journal atnativestudentcouncil.wordpress.com where students, alumni, faculty and friends of St. Thomas University publish papers and discuss native issues.

Simonson hopes to not only return the journal back to its former glory but also branch out to focus on helping to connect young natives spread out among diverse communities.

“I’ve got King’s Clear, St Mary’s, all the way down to Maramichi and Red Bay. I’ve got people in different reserves and I just want to connect everyone.”

Simonson says a lot of native youth are connecting mostly through school, social events and parties but he’d rather see more regional events to share their unique native heritages.

“There are a lot of new native students who just don’t know the city or don’t know anybody, especially just getting off the reserve. I know that’s how it was for me.”

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