Reconciliation: We are ready!

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September 14, 2016

By: William Lindsay

I am thrilled that the university I am working for is taking seriously the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission! I am also happy and excited to be asked to be a member of the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU-ARC) which will facilitate and support broad discussions about how the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be addressed at Simon Fraser University. To this end, SFU has committed $9M to promote reconciliation within the SFU community. What will this money be used for and how? We look forward to asking our community friends and colleagues for their recommendations. Please be ready to add to the discussion! In my experience, it is often best to support projects that will leave some kind of legacy footprint. As an example, might this include a first phase of a First Peoples' Longhouse, say a Coast Salish Great Hall? A community place of culture to hold celebrations, events, and conferences? We'll have to hear what the community says. Either way, I'll be advocating for the approval of projects and initiatives that will have long-term support/commitment within various Faculties and support units. That is, that the approved projects will continue to have guaranteed support, financial and otherwise, in the Faculties/units beyond the initial three years. I can think of many things that can be done: establishing the presence of elders and support staff in all the Faculties; 'Indigenizing the curriculum' endeavors; summer camp opportunities for Indigenous youth in committed Faculties; retention/preparation programming for new Indigenous students; improved tutoring and mentoring support for current students; international engagement/partnership opportunities; program partnerships with community; special residential school education endeavors; and on the list could go...For those wondering what they might do, don't be afraid to approach and ask my office or relevant others around the university. We stand ready to help. I pledge any time or support that you might need or ask for.

 

The above initiative is important to me for very personal reasons. Firstly, I remember a time in the 1970s and 1980s when Aboriginal people were a forgotten, invisible people on university campuses. Now we are here in force and making a difference. The above endeavor will make us even stronger. Secondly, my own family was destroyed by the residential school system. My mother, older brother, aunties, uncles, cousins, and older friends who attended were profoundly affected by this system. Many died young, having lived troubled lives. Those of us left behind, who may not have attended these schools, were still affected in many visible and invisible ways. I have the internal and external scars to prove it as do my still-living brothers/sisters. It is the same with many families. The federal government apology, the TRC Calls to Action, now the SFU-ARC leave me feeling hopeful. Here's a chance for us to make a difference here, on this university. I'm glad it's happening. Let's do it right. We are ready!

William G. Lindsay (Cree-Stoney)

Director, Office for Aboriginal Peoples

Office of the Vice President, Academic

Simon Fraser University

http://www.sfu.ca/aboriginalpeoples/