QNSA celebrates Indigenous students & Indigenous presence at Queen's

Personal accounts and events that make Indigenous Awareness Week special

Credit: 
Supplied by Lauren Winkler

My name is Lauren Winkler, I’m the president of Queen’s Native Students Association (QNSA) and this year have taken on the role of Deputy of Indigenous Affairs of the Alma Mater Society’s Social Issues Commission. I’m finishing up my fourth year here at Queen’s with a major in History and minor in Indigenous Studies. I’m Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) with my roots in Tyendinaga, about an hour west of Kingston. I grew up in Markham, Ontario and although I’ve always known and been proud of my ancestry, I never really felt a strong connection to my culture. 

Indigenous Awareness Week, formerly named Aboriginal Awareness Week, is the highlight of the school year for students in the QNSA. A group of both Indigenous students and settler-ally students, the QNSA works all year to plan events and projects that raise awareness of Indigenous histories, cultures and current issues. 

What the QNSA strives to do is give a voice to Indigenous students who’ve historically been marginalized here on campus. The Indigenous Awareness Week strives to show reconciliation and resurgence of Indigenous culture on a campus that has seen relatively little, while being a hub for Canada’s leaders of today and tomorrow. QNSA saw the importance in creating events for everyone over the course of a week, so that they too can be a part of reconciliation on campus.

One event the QNSA is hosting as part of Indigenous Awareness Week was selected specifically to bring the Queen’s community into conversations on reconciliation. On Friday, March 10 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the ARC main gym, the QNSA, alongside Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, will facilitate the KAIROS blanket exercise. KAIROS is an interactive exercise that gives its participants an Indigenous perspective on Canadian history.

The participants of the exercise temporarily step into the shoes of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and participate in a story of genocide, displacement and betrayal. With an estimated thousand Indigenous students at Queen’s, it’s important that Queen’s staff, faculty and students are familiar with the history of Canada from an Indigenous perspective.  

This year’s theme for Indigenous Awareness Week is Nation to Nation. As Indigenous peoples, we see ourselves as equal to the other 96 percent of 

non-Indigenous Canadians. A mistake that Canada has made, and continues to make, is taking a paternalistic role in their relationship with Indigenous peoples who were perfectly fine, and, it can be argued, better off without the imposition of settler society. 

As Indigenous peoples, we wish to have our voices, opinions, knowledge and systems, seen as legitimate and not minimized and dismissed by our non-Indigenous neighbours. As Indigenous students, we’re hoping to teach and remind students that our ways of knowing and being are unique, but just as legitimate. 

In my years at Queen’s, I’ve seen increased interest by Queen’s students and the administration to improve relationships with Indigenous peoples. I’m really hoping that a lot of students will take this week as an opportunity to learn and engage in conversations they may or may not normally be comfortable being a part of. I know that sometimes it can be intimidating to engage in these conversations but, as future leaders and participants of Canadian society, it’s our responsibility to acknowledge our history, learn from it and work toward a more equitable future for Indigenous peoples. 

The first year of my undergrad I was pretty wrapped up in making friends and trying to find my place at Queen’s. I didn’t know that it wouldn’t be until I joined the Queen’s Native Student Association in second year that I would find a passion that would carry me throughout the rest of my time here. 

Here’s a description of this week’s events:

This year’s Indigenous Awareness Week events include a Powwow Bootcamp which will take place Saturday, March 11 from 10 a.m. -11 a.m. in Studio 4 of the ARC.

Later that evening we will be hosting a Poetry Slam on the upper floor of the Grad Club from 7 p.m. -10 p.m. On Monday we team up with the Mental Health Awareness Committee to host an Indigenous Mental Health Open Discussion in the fire side lounge on the second floor of the Queen’s Centre from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. 

Tuesday we team up with the Education on Queer Issues Project to present a series of documentaries on Two-Spiritness. followed by a panel discussion in the Red Room at 6:30 p.m. 

Wednesday, the History Department is presenting a documentary called Colonization Road in the Kinesiology Building room 100 from 4-5:30 p.m. 

On Thursday, Indigenous students and our allies are invited to walk through campus in solidarity as we acknowledge and celebrate Indigenous presence, successes, and contributions to Queen’s. This event will start and end in Grant Hall. Sign-making and craft vendors will open at 10 a.m. and the walk will begin at 12 p.m.

Later Thursday night the Language Literature and Cultural Understanding department will be screening The Pass System in Ellis Hall at 7 p.m. 

Finally, on Saturday, March 18 QNSA has teamed up with all of the groups involved with the Next Steps Charity Gala to give the Queen’s and Kingston community the chance to discuss environmental issues and how they affect First Nations communities. This will be in the BioSciences Atrium, doors open at 6 p.m. 

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