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Honouring the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
September 30th marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as well as Orange Shirt Day.
Simon Fraser University's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (SFU) respectfully acknowledges the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Qayqayt, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen peoples on whose unceded traditional territories our three campuses reside.
As we honour the third ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we slow down and reflect. This day is about survivors and those who never made it home from residential schools. It's about acknowledging the tragedies of the past and the ongoing legacy of residential schools that still impact the present.
At the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at SFU, we are committed to the principles of Canada's National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. While there is still much more work to be done, below you will see how this year FASS faculty, staff, and students have been working to answer the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action.
FASS researchers have been working towards uncovering and upholding truth in their work. As we have learned, truth must always come before reconciliation.
"Without truth, justice is not served, healing cannot happen, and there can be no genuine reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada."
- Leah D George-Wilson in the 2015 TRC Final Report
FASS researchers Maaike Helmus (CRIM) and Ashley Kyne (CRIM & INDG) found that according to the surveyed experiences of 282 Indigenous Canadians across the country, CSA was reported by 35 per cent of males, 50 per cent of females, and 57 per cent of transgender and gender non-conforming participants. The rates are drastically higher than global meta-analytic estimates which report that 7.6 per cent of boys and 18 per cent of girls on average experience sexual abuse as children. Their recommendations include the need for more trauma-informed services to address the lasting harms of colonization, in line with recommendations from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Wanda John-Kehewin, 2022/2023 Shadbolt Fellow: The Lateral Violence Project
During her fellowship, Wanda’s project focused on the effects of lateral violence in Indigenous communities and identifying ways of informing and preventing acts of lateral violence. As part of this project, Wanda taught two Lateral Violence workshops in the community. The workshops used a mannequin painted in the four colours of the medicine wheel to represent that lateral violence happens in all communities that have been oppressed. The project also represented a healing journey for the attendees, who wrote on the mannequin with sharpies and acrylic markers, highlighting what they learned about lateral violence and how it affected them.
Committing to Reconciliation
In January 2023, the Department of History's Decolonization and Indigenization Working Group along with student research assistants Zaina Khan and Ashley Kyne released their initial findings in a report: "The Way Forward: Decolonizing and Indigenizing the SFU Department of History." In the report are shared experiences from students, staff, and faculty about their time at the Department of History. The report also identifies 25 calls to action for the Department.
The Department of Indigenous Studies works towards reducing barriers to education on Indigenous cultures through INDG-Online, a program providing Indigenous curricula via remote delivery. The online courses respond to the 94 calls to action outlined by the 2015 Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC 62.1), to give Canadians greater education on the history of Canada which includes Indigenous perspectives and experiences, especially the impact of residential schools. INDG-Online was created through the Aboriginal Strategic Initiatives (ASI) at SFU by faculty members in Indigenous Studies, coordinated by Archaeology professor Rudy Reimer and Indigenous Studies professor Deanna Reder.
FASS funding initiatives to move decolonial ideas into reconciliatory reality
Launched in 2019, the FASS Reconciling Curriculum Grants Program provides funding support to instructors so that they can address the ongoing legacies of colonialism by advancing a reconciliatory approach to the university’s curriculum. Following a pause during the pandemic, the grants program resumed this year with seven grants awarded to FASS instructors working on various projects such as community-based partner events, courses that incorporate Indigenous perspectives toward the work of reconciliation, and initiatives that advance pedagogies of decolonizing teaching practices.
Centering Indigenous Voices
Indigenous Studies and English professor, Deanna Reder, collaborated on a database, "The People and the Text," to compile two centuries worth of Indigenous writing in North America. Furthering this effort, Reder co-founded the Indigenous Literary Association and Indigenous Editors Association.
BRC's display space has hosted several exhibits that highlight new media approaches for engaging with and learning about the visual and material heritage of Coastal First Peoples. BRC associate director Bryan Myles says that new media approaches help to facilitate an embodied experience of Indigenous culture and heritage on campus for SFU students, faculty, and staff. “The objective is really to Indigenize the space—and Indigenize SFU at large. We want to create a space that focuses on contemporary Indigenous culture and heritage and the current work being done to document, preserve, and educate,” says Myles. “The university is a place for Indigenous people. We want to make that very loud and clear.”
Professor and Department Chair of Indigenous Studies, Eldon Yellowhorn, was awarded a Gold Standard Selection Award from the Junior Library Guild for his newest book, Sky Wolf's Call: The Gift of Indigenous Knowledge. Yellowhorn's children's book addresses the connection to the natural world, the lessons from Indigenous knowledge, and how that knowledge has informed learning today.
Supporting Indigenous Students and Programs
Legacy gift funds scholarship awards for Indigenous language learners
Thanks to a generous legacy gift from the Lobstick Foundation, endowments have been created to permanently fund two scholarship awards benefitting Indigenous students, guaranteeing its financial support for Indigenous language learners for many years to come. Supporting students enrolled in the Indigenous Languages Program (INLP), the Dr. Aimee August Award in Indigenous Language Proficiency and the Dr. Ruby Peter Graduate Award in Indigenous Language Proficiency were established in honour of their namesakes, who had made great strides in Indigenous language revitalization, instruction, and documentation.
Free tutoring program uses Indigenous knowledge to prepare students for university
While a student at SFU, Todd Nelson launched the Indigenous Tutoring & Mentoring Program (ITMP), using the power of tutoring and mentorship to help Indigenous children attain their education. Professor Kicya7 Joyce Schneider and an introductory Indigenous Studies course inspired him to further develop ITMP by introducing Indigenous cultural safety training, Indigenizing the training sessions for volunteers, and introducing Indigenous studies to high school students.
If you would like to donate to support Indigenous students and programs, FASS has several endowments that fund scholarships and awards. Your donations will go toward growing these important financial supports.
Attend an Event
- 10th Anniversary of Orange Shirt Day with Founder Phyllis Webstad
October 4 | Leslie & Gordon Diamond Family Auditorium | 10:30 am - 12:00pm
Join the founder of Orange Shirt Day, Phyllis Webstad, at a special campus event to raise awareness of the legacy and ongoing impacts of Indian Residential School system and honour those impacted.
- Skookum Surrey–National Day For Truth and Reconciliation
September 29 | Holland Park | 3:00 - 5:00pm
To mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, join the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee (SUILC) for an afternoon of drumming, storytelling, coffee, tea and bannock. This event will be rain or shine. Guests are encouraged to wear an orange shirt and bring their drums.
- Blackness, Indigeneity, and Kinship as Solidarity
October 20 | Zoom | 2:30 - 4:00pm
An Anishinaabe philosophy rooted in better relations between human and non-human species, Dr. Kyle Mays argues that while solidarity might be fleeting, kinship might be the way forward for Black and Indigenous peoples to resist together, without sacrificing their respective histories and contemporary realities. Using historical examples and contemporary popular culture, he will examine the pitfalls and possibilities for a collective notion of reparatory justice.