‘[I]t’s inspiring to think about the leadership Indigenous students have shown on campus’

Director of Indigenous Student Centre discusses importance of visibility on campus

Image by: Maia McCann
Four Directions is working to have the flagpoles installed in the next month.

Following the racist incidents throughout the past year at Queen’s, Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre is installing a permanent display of Indigenous flags in front of the centre.

The permanent installment of flags will be hung in front of both Four Directions buildings on two flagpoles, with each flagpole displaying three flags. The flags to be displayed are the Haudenosaunee Confederacy flag, Anishinaabe Nation flag, the Métis flag, a Two-Row Wampum flag, the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, and the Trans Pride flag.

In an interview with The Journal, Director of Four Directions Kandice Baptiste discussed the meaning and significance of each flag.

Baptiste said the Haudenosaunee Confederacy flag and Anishinaabe Nation flag recognize the two nations Queen’s recognizes as the territory the institution sits on.

“We hang these flags to reflect on those nations and the history of those folks prior to colonization,” Baptiste said.

The Two-Row Wampum explores the relationship between the Haudenosaunee and the European settlers. 

“The flag is reflective of the Haudenosaunee and Dutch settlers and was expanded to include the English, French, and other settlers,” Baptiste said.

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“That Wampum teaches us about our relationship together. The white in the belt is meant to symbolize the river of life, and the two purple rows are meant to symbolize both the settler ship and the Indigenous canoe, which is meant to remind us that we are meant to have peaceful relationships and not interfere with each other.”

Baptiste said the LGBTQ+ Pride and Trans Pride flags were hung with the Indigenous flags as an act of solidarity in response to the students affected by the racist and homophobic incident at Chown Hall incident last fall.

“Because of the way the Chown Hall incident was both racist towards Indigenous students and was also a homophobic and transphobic attack, we felt it was critical for us to show support for queer and trans folks and students on this campus by flying those flags in particular, and letting students know that we are a safe space for them, and in particular for students who are living at the intersections of those identities,” Baptiste said. “Our Two-Spirit students and our Indigenous and queer and trans students are centred in that.”

“It’s critical for folks to be visible and there be support for communities that have historically been marginalized, so that was our thinking when we decided to hang [the Trans and LGBTQ+ Pride flags].”

Four Directions is currently working with Queen’s Physical Plant Services to have the flagpoles installed in the next month, however a date for the installation of the flagpoles has yet to be confirmed.

The Centre hung a Métis and LGBTQ+ flag in the windows of the centre in October 2019, following the racist Chown incident to show solidarity for the students affected by the hateful note. This past July, the flags were damaged in a hate crime.

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The installment of the flagpoles is meant to be a permanent display of Indigenous and LGBTQ+ flags following the hate crimes of the past year.

Despite the challenges faced throughout the past year, Baptiste told The Journal she was proud of the strength displayed by Indigenous students at Queen’s.

“When I think about this past year I think about community, and I think about the students who have accessed [Four Directions] and the strength and resilience that they have shown in responding to these incidents, enduring these incidents and taking leadership in response to these incidents,” Baptiste said.

“It is critical that Indigenous students have and continue to push us all to make change at the institution to make it a safer place for them.”

Baptiste said she feels lucky to be the director of the Centre and have the ability to bear witness to the “incredible students” and support them in using their voices on campus.

“It’s easy to think about lots of negative things that have happened on campus, but I think it’s inspiring to think about the leadership Indigenous students have shown on campus.”

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Four Directions, Indigenous history

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