Calgary university celebrates storied history of indigenous education
The Iniskim Centre is marking its 10th anniversary on March 21 with bannock and cake
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The Iniskim Centre is turning 10.
The centre, whose name reflects the inii (buffalo), offers programs and services for indigenous students at Mount Royal University (MRU) and raises awareness on campus about indigenous peoples and their cultures.
John Fischer, director of the centre, said it’s an important part of MRU’s transition from a university that may have traditionally been exclusionary in some practices and teachings to an institution of inclusion.
“For both indigenous and non-indigenous students, it’s really critical that we begin to fully enact the relationship building that people are terming reconciliation,” Fischer said.
“By holding this celebration, I’m hoping to tell the story that MRU has been committed along these lines for a long time.”
He hinted a possible expansion could be in the future, as space is getting tight. MRU plans to increase indigenous enrolment to 7 per cent of its student body, up from 4.7 per cent, by 2025.
“Right now we’re in a smallish space and for our programming needs we need to get into a bigger space,” Fischer said.
“It’s an exciting place to be at this time.”
To mark the occasion, Metro complied a brief history of indigenous education at MRU.
1968: Indigenous outreach efforts begin in earnest
In the fall of 1968, a pilot program called ‘Project Go Ahead’ was launched – Mount Royal supplied the education and the Indian Affairs Department provided residences. Fifteen First Nations students participated in the program, which was not renewed.
1971: MRU opens satellite campus on reserve
Old Sun College, a former residential school, opened on the Blackfoot First Nations in Gleichen, Alberta as a remote campus for students on reserve. It operated until 1978 when it became an independent institution run by the Blackfoot Nation.
1998: Native Student Centre Opens at the MRU Students’ Association
The Students’ Association and its contributions to Indigenous education led to the centre’s opening, at which Tom Cranebear provided a blessing. The first student club formed in 1987 and the Graduation Pow-Wow, held in 1994, continues to this day.
1993: Aboriginal Education Program opens its doors
The Aboriginal Education Program, initiated by the Calgary Aboriginal Education Centre Society as a partnership with MRU, was designed to support university and college transitions. In January of 1993, the Aboriginal Education Program opened the doors to the College Preparation Program.
2007: Iniskim Centre naming ceremony
The Iniskim Centre’s grand opening was March 21, 2007. The launch was attended by many dignitaries, include the Chiefs of the Treaty 7 Nations and premier Ralph Klein. Jolain Foster, a graduate from MRU, was named director.
2007: Indigenous Housing Program created
Mount Royal began to offer single and family housing programming, which included hiring a dedicated housing coordinator. This program is something MRU hopes to expand in the future.
2009: Medicine Trail Program launched
A program for the cultural support of students, staff, and faculty, The Medicine Trail Program provides guidance, awareness of indigenous cultures, and supports curriculum development and research. Elders and knowledge keepers are an important resource in a variety of courses.
2011: Aboriginal Science and Technology Program (ASTEP) announced
ASTEP was developed in response to the under-representation of indigenous peoples in the fields of science and technology, and fosters a supportive learning model for indigenous students preparing for and studying in the Bachelor of Science (BSc) or the Bachelor of Computer Information Systems (BCIS) degree programs.
2015: The development of the Indigenous Strategic Plan
The Indigenous Strategic Plan 2016-2021 was approved by the President's Executive Council in August 2016. The goal is to respect, integrate, and embrace indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing throughout campus.
2016: Raising of the Treaty 7 and Métis flags on campus
On the morning of Nov. 1, the Treaty 7 and Métis flags were both raised to their new and permanent positions on the Mount Royal campus. The event symbolized MRU’s commitment to reconcile the past while building partnerships towards the future.
Visit mru.ca/iniskim10 for tickets to the celebration – bannock and stew will be served with a side of birthday cake.
Sources: Catch The Gleam (2011) by Donald Noel Baker and Mount Royal University.