News / Calgary

University of Calgary reveals new Indigenous strategy

University and Indigenous officials have unveiled their new plan to incorporate Indigenous culture into the school’s lifestyle

Reg Crowshoe, Traditional Knowledge Keeper of the Piikani Nation, and Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president of academics at the U of C, celebrate the launch of the new strategy at MacEwan Hall on Thursday.

Jennifer Friesen / for metro calgary

Reg Crowshoe, Traditional Knowledge Keeper of the Piikani Nation, and Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president of academics at the U of C, celebrate the launch of the new strategy at MacEwan Hall on Thursday.

After almost two years of planning, the University of Calgary has officially embarked on a mission to make their institution more inclusive to Indigenous students and staff.

The U of C unveiled their Indigenous strategy Thursday in the hopes of strengthening the relationship between the institution and Indigenous Peoples.

The strategy’s Blackfoot name, ii’ taa’ poh’ to’ p, means “a place to rest, to re-energize during a journey,” which is a sentiment Phil Fontaine says he hopes echoes across the country.

“This becomes an exciting place,” the former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations continued. “(The university is) now viewed as a place to rejuvenate and re-energize. And, if other public institutions were to embark on the same kind of process, they can make a huge difference.”

Currently, 731 Indigenous students — 2.6 per cent of the school’s population — are enrolled at the university.

Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president of academics, said they don’t have a target number for future enrolment, but hope to recruit more First Nations students and staff.

“It’s not really about setting a target for the number,” she said. “It’s about letting the Indigenous community … know that they’re welcome here at our institution.”

The 27 recommendations in the strategy include removing barriers for Indigenous students and increasing inter-cultural styles of study in parallel — being both written and oral histories.

“We need to look at Western concepts of knowledge,” said Reg Crowshoe, TraditionalKnowledge Keeper of the Piikani Nation.

“When we take knowledge and data and put them in packages, they’re called ‘books,’ but when we talk about our oral knowledge and data, they’re packaged and stored in stories. So, when stories and books can come together and are able to protect each other and work together, I think that that’s knowledge the students, whether they’re First Nations or not First Nations, can benefit from.”

Marshall said the admissions process has included barriers for Indigenous students, so the university has hired an Indigenous recruiter to help level the playing field.

“Those systemic barriers, that we don’t even think about sometimes, are the things that were going to be changing,” she said.

Crowshoe went to school at the University of Calgary and advised the institution in their plans from the beginning. He said Thursday’s announcement was a “milestone.”

“Today is an exciting day,” he said. “Today is also emotional, because when we talk about ‘truth and reconciliation,’ the truth was collecting those stories, and that was emotional, and important. But now we’re past that truth, and we’re moving into reconciliation.”

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