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Reconciliation underway at University of Saskatchewan

Education
Saskatoon

The University of Saskatchewan is taking the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action as central to their future as an academic institution.

“There are a lot of great things that are happening,” said Candace Wasacase-Lafferty, Director, Aboriginal Initiatives on campus.

Wasacase-Lafferty said after a Reconciliation Forum on campus in 2015, Reconciliation work has been occurring in four areas: teaching and learning; research, scholarly and artistic work; student experience; and governance and administration. She points to the Indigenous Voices Program, the creation of a Cree Language Certificate and engagements of students through the Gordon Oakes Redbear Student Centre as examples of the new focus.

Indigenous engagement strategies and Reconciliation is part of community engagement also. Lisa Erickson is the university’s manager of community engagement and outreach and she is based out of Station 20 West in Saskatoon.

The Animation Project was created with the support of Erickson’s office and tells the stories of undergraduate mothers with lived experiences of poverty. These mothers collaborated to create an animated graphic narrative along with other students from the University of Saskatchewan to challenge typical assumptions.

“It’s a concrete effort of our office to tell a different and challenging story to engage in reconciliation,” Erickson said.

These examples are just a few of the many programs and projects happening at the U of S as the university starts on the path to Reconciliation. A second Forum for Reconciliation on March 7, 2017 continues this work. (You can read the 2016 Progress Reconciliation report online).

According to Wasacase-Lafferty there is a hunger of information on how to engage in reconciliation and weeks before the forum more than 250 people had already registered.

“This work 15 years ago was a real struggle and now we can’t keep up with the demand,” she said.

“I think people want to be part of the solution.”

For people looking for where to start on their journey of Reconciliation, Wasacase-Lafferty and Erickson agree that knowing the TRC Calls to Action is a good place to start.

“It’s practical, it’s a guidebook and people need to know it,” Wasacase-Lafferty said.

On top of knowing the Calls to Action, they recommended delving into the history of residential schools and forming real relationships as key in the Reconciliation journey.

“Building relationships and learning directly from folks, is at the heart of Reconciliation for our office,” Erickson said.

While there is no quick fix, the university is “committed to providing the environment to explore the answers together,” Wasacase-Lafferty said.

“Reconciliation we recognize is going to take several generations, we don’t have all the answers. It’s only through partnership and dialogue that we can scratch the surface.”

 

(Image: The Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre. Photo by David Stobbe/University of Saskatchewan)

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