Journal aims to give native students a voice

Native student council president Shaunessy McKay wants to highlight issues facing native students on campus. (Karissa Donkin/AQ)

The Native Student Council launched an online journal of articles, papers and poems on Friday.

Shaunessy McKay, president of the Native Student Council, is hoping the online journal will give native students on campus a chance to express themselves and discuss issues.

“I don’t think [native students have a voice on campus] at all. We’re kind of dismissed and it’s not really fair,” McKay said.

“We didn’t really have any other place to put our papers,” she said. “We really kind of needed the students [to have a] place to be able to express their concerns.”

The journal will touch on issues like colonization, genocide and assimilation, among other topics.

The first edition includes articles about the right to food and narratology as well as some poetry.

The journal will be published online whenever there are three or more pieces submitted and anyone, native or non-native, can contribute.

“We’re looking for people who are thinking critically about the issues we’re having, who are questioning what’s going on and who maybe have ideas about how to look at things and how to deal with [issues].”

McKay suspects native students don’t have a voice on campus because they often don’t know where to turn with their concerns.

Ideally, she would like to see the school’s administration spend more time listening to native students and collaborating with them on problems.

For native students, McKay says things like childcare and tracking down help with education funding are two major issues.

Many students often don’t realize their post-secondary education funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is running out and some don’t know how to apply for student loans, McKay said. The program provides assistance to native students with tuition, living expenses and travel costs.

“I know several people who only have a year left and their funding is cut. The funding issue is a major problem,” she said.

“We need to know about student loans. We don’t go in expecting to have to do this stuff. So there [needs to be] extra help on how to fill out that paperwork and how to do that kind of stuff.”

Sometimes, these issues can result in students dropping out, McKay said, adding that she knows two native students who weren’t sure this summer if they would be able to return.

“We have an issue with students dropping out. Nobody seems to be working on it.

“They just don’t think they can do it for one reason or another, they don’t think they have the support. They don’t have the community on campus.”

While McKay acknowledges these problems aren’t specific to native students, she hopes the online journal will offer an opportunity to create awareness about them.

Above all, she wants people writing for the journal – and reading it – to think about things from different perspectives.

And if all goes well, McKay hopes to launch a larger media outlet. She also hopes to create an Aboriginal centre which offers childcare, tutoring, peer counselling and a library.

“It’s to give a voice to Aboriginal issues.”

The Native Student Council online journal can be found at nativestudentcouncil.wordpress.com.

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