The Journey so Far
By Liam Rockliffe, Contributor
Truth and reconciliation goes beyond just knowing what happened and then feeling sad for those who were lost, Mount Royal University (MRU) demonstrated this from Sept. 22 to Oct. 4 by going above and beyond in their events surrounding Indigenization and decolonization.
With the raising of the survivors flag on Sept. 22 – as well as the campus being perpetually lit up in orange – The Journey to Indigenization began strong, and gave hope for events the following week. Many of these events were speeches from professors, students, faculty, and elders from around Treaty 7 territory. These events were held everyday Monday to Thursday and told many stories from differing points of views.
Desire to Indigenize
One speech on Monday was from Christopher Grignard and Elder Joe Eagle Tail Feathers. This speech, titled Desire to Indigenize, a play on Desire to Learn (D2L) – which MRU uses as its online learning system – speaks about Grignard’s and Eagle Tail Feathers’ adventure to Indigenize D2L.
When Grignard gets asked how he got so into Indigenous way of life – without being Indigenous himself – his answer is simple: “Education”.
Grignard has spent the same amount of time “walking the red road” as he has spent getting each of his degrees. Now teaching courses on Indigenous culture, Grignard wished for more from D2L in the way of Indigenization. Following the proper protocol to display it; Grignard got permission from Eagle Tail Feathers to display his tipi design on his D2L classes.
Eagle Tail Feathers continued the speech after a beautiful video demonstration of how he received the vision for his tipi design. He spoke about his journey, how he grew up in the Indigenous way of life, and how he came to lead in ceremonies. He also relayed that the Elders in the Indigenous community are everyone’s elders and relayed wisdom that “The most important part of Native wealth, is to make as many friends and relatives as you can.”
Department of Education’s Journey to Decolonization & Reconciliation
The Department of Education had a presentation on their own personal story of Indigenization. Joshua Hill and Jessica Lee Wah were on site for the presentation, and Kevin O’Conner – chair for the department – attended virtually as he was on Treaty 6 territory for the lieutenant governor student awards.
The Department of Education had a goal of creating a teaching program which responded to the call to actions relating to Indigenization and decolonization. Searching for ways to include Indigenous voices in the curriculum, MRU was one of the first educators to commit to decolonization. Mapping out four years with an Indigenous educator, Charlene Bear Head, to look at every course and outline to incorporate Indigenous voices, knowledge and resources throughout.
Ani to Pisi: The Human Spider Web
Ani to Pisi, hosted by Clarence Wolf Leg, was an incredible group choreographed effort based off of a story originally told by Elder Roy Bear Chief’s brother. Held in memory of residential school survivors and held in respect to truth and reconciliation, it started by the call to actions.
The actual dance reenacts the motions of a spiderweb, and represents the story told by Elder Roy Bear Chief – originally told by his late brother Clement. The spiderweb “which speaks to the interrelatedness and interconnectedness” of people holds incredible value to everyone who hears its many messages. By working as a team, to move in circular motion, everyone of the roughly 500 attendees was connected.
Ani to Pisi actually plays a role in MRU’s faculties of Health, Community and Education (HCE) strategic planning. Which encourages students to make a difference in their communities and to work together with each other. The plan organizes the faculty’s resources and time for the next five years. The HCE states on their website that their plan “does so using the story of the spider web allowing us to work together, sensing vibrations as they occur, and sending support to the aid of others. This inspires our work with reconciliation, and our work with embracing and supporting diversity”.
Finishing off the week on Oct. 4 is Sisters in Spirit day, honouring the Indigenous women and girls lost to colonization. Instead of orange, everyone was asked to wear red and the Red Dress Exhibit inspired by Jamie Black’s ReDress project.
With that the 2023 Journey to Indigenization comes to a close, a huge success, spreading knowledge on the process of Indigenization and decolonization. With support from every department in the school – student and faculty alike – it truly was an effort from everyone to make it succeed.