Spakwus Slolem (Eagle Song Drummers) were part of an extensive program put together for a National Indigenous Peoples Month ArtsLIVE performance on June 15.

Renewing our commitment to reconciliation and decolonization

June 27, 2022

As we come to the end of June and National Indigenous Peoples Month, I am reminded of the decolonization work SFU is currently embarking on and what remains to be done. At the Surrey campus, it starts with listening, learning from, involving and walking in solidarity with our Indigenous partners and leaders – the qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ (Kwantlen), q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), Səmyámə (Semiahmoo), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), qiqéyt (Qayqayt) and sc̓əwaθən (Tsawwassen) First Nations, as well as the Métis and Inuit peoples who also call Surrey their home.

Over the past number of weeks, we’ve had opportunities to experience Indigenous art and culture and honour Indigenous heritage both on and off campus. A great example of this was the special ArtsLIVE performance at SFU Surrey, which brought together Indigenous artists for an afternoon of song, dance, and drumming, as well as National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration and Wellness Event that was hosted on June 21 in Holland Park. SFU has a been a proud supporter of this event for the past 4 years, and it’s wonderful to see this event grow each year.

Despite the rain, hundreds of people gathered in Holland Park on June 21 to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day!
Angela Wolfe (left, Director, Indigenous Recruitment and Admissions) and Madison Chad (Indigenous Student Recruitment Liaison Coordinator) tabling at NIPD.

And, earlier on in May, we had a very powerful activation on the Mezzanine to honour the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Peoples. Donated red dresses, along with the names of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit peoples were displayed on May 5. Staff from the Indigenous Students Centre (ISC) were present to discuss the importance of the day.

The red dress display would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of many staff who supported and put the display together.
The names of the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls were hung up among the red dresses.

Speaking of the ISC, space on Galleria 5 (SRYC 5300) has now become a dedicated space for the ISC team to provide services and program events for Indigenous students at the Surrey campus. I am grateful to all those who that have put in the time and energy to make ISC at Surrey a reality. For SFU’s Indigenous students at our campus, I encourage you to connect with the ISC, as well as the SFU First Nations, Métis & Inuit Student Association. Both these groups, along with the Office for Aboriginal Peoples (OAP) are excellent resources for learning and cultural engagement.

We also recently held a feast with representatives from the region’s First Nations and other key stakeholders to initiate conversations on the design and creation of a Welcome Figure/Post for our campus. This is one way that we are looking to indigenize our space. I look forward to working our Indigenous partners to ensure that this work is done in a good way.

A number of First Nations representatives gathered with SFU staff for a feast to discuss the potential for Indigenous Welcoming Figures at SFU Surrey.
Chief Marilyn Gabriel of Kwantlen First Nation, addresses the room during the Indigenous Welcoming Figure feast.

I also want to point out that SFU Library has a number of Indigenous initiatives underway, of note, the Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre which helps to support the work of indigenizing and decolonizing curriculum and research at SFU. Also, check out the extensive library of Indigenous resources and recordings from our friends at SFU Public Square and SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement.

What’s become clear to me, and many others at the Surrey campus, is the work of reconciliation and decolonization is a journey, and I am hearten by SFU’s and President’s Joy Johnson’s actions and commitment to this endeavour.

Large or small, we all have a responsibility to do our part, and in doing so, I have no doubt that we can make a lasting difference.