Q&A: SFU-ARC presents its calls to action for reconciliation—Oct. 16

October 12, 2017

By Justin Wong

The SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU-ARC) will present its calls to action for reconciliation to SFU president Andrew Petter on Burnaby campus on Monday, Oct. 16 at 11 a.m. The ceremony will also be streamed on Facebook live and you can watch by visiting our Facebook page when the event commences.

At the event, a Coast Salish witnessing ceremony, Kwis Ns7eyx̱to, will celebrate and honour the work that went into the council’s final report, summoning the University to commence action in four key areas.

The final report, titled Walk this Path With Us, highlights the groundwork ahead as the University community begins its collaborative journey towards reconciliation.

The report includes 34 calls to action, organized into four clusters:

  • Creating safe and welcoming spaces for Aboriginal peoples
  • Curriculum innovation and indigenization
  • Student pathways and support
  • Administration, hiring and project implementation

The real work begins now as the University begins implementing the report’s 34 calls to action. SFU has committed $9 million in University funding to advance reconciliation projects across the SFU community over the next four years.

In anticipation of this event, SFU acting director of the Office for Aboriginal Peoples, Ron Johnston, sat down with SFU News to share his insights.

What should the community expect to see at the ceremony?

The SFU-ARC Ceremony Planning Committee has worked closely with our Coast Salish partners and advisors to try and replicate what takes place in a Coast Salish Longhouse during a Kwis Ns7eyx̱ (Witness) Ceremony. In accordance with Coast Salish traditions, distinguished “Speakers,” including Chief Ian Campbell and Gabriel George, will speak for the SFU-ARC family, which is hosting this important event. They will both guide the ceremony in accordance with age-old Coast Salish protocol and practice.

At the event, council co-chairs Chris Lewis, SFU board member and Squamish Nation Councilor, and Kris Magnusson, dean of the Faculty of Education, will present the SFU-ARC final report and calls to action to SFU President Petter. Upon acceptance of the report, Petter will then share what this means to him and the University. Witnesses will be called upon to respond to the work witnessed and share their perspectives in accordance with Coast Salish protocol.

What is the cultural significance of a Coast Salish witnessing ceremony?

The Kwis Ns7eyx̱ (Witness) ceremony is at the heart of Coast Salish culture and protocol and has been practiced since time immemorial. It’s the age-old way in which Coast Salish People document and record their oral histories of important events and activities that take place on their lands.

Witnesses are called upon are often chiefs, leaders, elders and other people of stature. They are there to recognize and acknowledge the important “work” that is taking place. In so doing, they are given gifts and called upon to respond to the work so that they may share their perspectives about what they witnessed.

Witnesses also have an important responsibility to share what they witnessed afterwards so that others are informed about the work that took place. This is an integral part of how we record our oral histories and share this knowledge with others and future generations.

What does it mean to you to see the work that went into SFU’s final report?

The SFU-ARC final report and its calls to action evolved out of an extensive process of engagement and consultation that took close to a year. The report helps to frame and to respond to some of the key issues, challenges and opportunities that SFU faces in our efforts to respond to the TRC Report and Calls to Action.

 Our report should be thought of as a living document that needs to incorporate change in response to lessons learned and to our constantly changing and evolving environment. Above all, it means that we share a collective responsibility to nurture the principles and implement the calls to action that form the heart of the ARC report, and we invite the entire SFU community to witness this important event.

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