Awareness Week, Queen’s Native Student Association (QNSA) sought to draw in more Indigenous students by involving non-Indigenous ones.
QNSA President Leah Combs said the club received a lot of support this year in organizing a successful Aboriginal Awareness Week.
The committee of six has been trying to expand its volunteer base, she said, and hopes that with this year’s popularity it may be able to.
QNSA had support from Queen’s Law’s Equity and Diversity Commission, Queen’s School of Religion and Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre in working to raise issues of the Indigenous community.
“We’re putting a voice to different members of our community and our province from different backgrounds,” said Combs, ArtSci ’16.
There are three goals for this year’s events, she said: teaching students about Indigenous issues, showing students that these issues should matter to everyone regardless of ancestry and raising money for the QNSA’s Northern Food Security Initiative.
The week’s main event was held Thursday night in Grant Hall: a panel discussion about missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The event, called Our Stolen Sisters: Listening to the Voices from our Community, was made up of a panel of academics and other leaders of Indigenous activism, with a chance for audience members to interact in the conversation. The panel included Kingston and the Islands MPP Sophie Kiwala and Queen’s professor Sam McKegney.
Over 100 people attended the event, filling most of the seats in Grant Hall. The audience was made up of students and community members alike.
“The issues that we speak about and the events that we hold can be important for a person of any sort of ancestry or background,” Combs said.
Combs said there’d been concerns that event turnout would be affected on Tuesday due to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but the Medicine Shield Workshop was a small event and celebrations didn’t affect it too much.
She added that these are improvements that QNSA can focus on for next year.
Combs said coming from British Columbia, she notices less student involvement in and support of Indigenous groups on campus.
“We’re having a problem with self-identification,” said Combs, whose grandmother was Cree.
Students with Native ancestry are unlikely to show up to events or define themselves as Indigenous out of fear that they “aren’t Indigenous enough”, she added.
Her hope is that with more volunteers of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds, more students will be encouraged to come out to events and learn about the culture.
“The call is out there for people with Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestry to join QNSA because no voices are more valuable than other voices when it comes to these issues,” she said.
The week’s events will end with the annual Celebration of Indigenous Arts & Culture, organized by Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, taking place at the Tett Centre from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
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