The Indigenous Student Reconciliation Committee at St. Thomas University is hosting a four-week seminar event beginning on Feb. 25. The event will introduce students to Indigenous-related topics, beginning with treaties and ending with missing and murdered Indigenous women, children and two-spirit people.
Tiger Levi, student and chair of the committee from Elsipogtog First Nation, said there will be one seminar each week and STU’s March break will act as a break week.
“Our main goal is reconciliation and the further decolonization of the university,” said Levi. “We had to initially make this first step as baby steps towards reconciliation.”
He said the first two weeks of the event will be presented seminar-style with two co-hosts who will introduce a presenter with a question-and-answer portion after. But the third week will be more discussion-based between committee members, Levi said.
Leanne Hudson, a student and committee member from Acadia First Nation, said the first speaker will be Ron Tremblay from Tobique First Nation and Chief of Wolastoq Grand Council.
She said week one will be about treaties and the importance of Peace and Friendship Treaties to Indigenous communities, week two will be about residential schools and Indian day schools in N.B., week three will be on STU reconciliation and week four will be about missing and murdered Indigenous women, children and two-spirit people. She said while the committee has speakers lined up for all four weeks, nothing can be confirmed past the first week.
“Sometime during that week, we’ll have a guest speaker event and then our social media accounts will also be following that same theme for that week,” said Hudson. “There’ll be educational posts and resources shared throughout the week that are applicable to that week’s theme.”
Levi, after being appointed the Indigenous representative to STU Students’ Union, noticed a dormant committee in the STUSU bylaws.
He said he realized there was a lot of work that could be done with the committee and started an initiative to get it off the ground.
“I [sought] out help [from] some of the best students I know – some of the best people I know – and next thing you know, we have this amazing committee,” he said.
Jonah Simon, a student and vice-chair of the committee from Elsipogtog, said the event is open to everyone and it will be virtual.
Simon said the committee wants to raise awareness and educate the university community on issues they may have little to no information on.
“People may see red dresses hung around and may not know the story behind it,” he said.
Hudson said this event will take most of the rest of the academic year so it’s one of the only events they have on the go at the moment.
She said, as a committee, they are brainstorming and thinking about future initiatives. Hudson is in her second year along with Levi, Simon is in his third year and Hudson said the committee is made up of people of all years so the committee will be able to continue into the future.
“Starting next year, I think you’ll see a lot of different initiatives take shape in the form of fundraisers and supporting organizations at STU and outside of STU on behalf of the committee,” said Hudson.
“You may see other awareness and education events and just different things to promote that decolonization and to promote inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and culture on campus.”