Western University’s Indigenous Awareness Week, hosted by the Indigenous Student Services, took place from November 20 to November 26 to commemorate and promote indigenous culture.
This week is an opportunity to raise awareness through hosting and promoting several events and encouraging an exchange of ideas on First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
Founded last year, the purpose of the society is to work with non-Indigenous students that are interested in gaining knowledge about Indigenous culture. The Attawandaran (Neutral) peoples once settled on the region where Western in now standing, alongside the Algonquin and Haudenosaunee peoples, and used this land as their traditional beaver hunting grounds.
According to the 2011 National Household Survey, “there are more than 1.4 million people in Canada that identify as Indigenous and almost half of them are under the age of 25.” It is vital for an educational institution such as Wester to provide a space to privilege Indigenous voices on campus.
“We want to immerse ourselves in Indigenous culture and build connections with the Indigenous students and peoples that attend Western or that live in the London area… providing an acknowledgement to the people whose land our school is built upon,” said Racheal Madray, president of the Indigenous Allies Society.
The society also works with local Londoners and believes including the community in indigenous discussion is important.
“We are currently trying to work with some of the reserves in the local London area… as well as to participate in any way possible to familiarize ourselves with the current affairs going on in these reserves as we would like to collaborate when needed,” said Madray.
The society holds many fundraisers throughout the year to encourage non-indigenous students to participate in learning about indigenous culture. The funds collected are used for organizations that are trying to build better medical and holistic traditional healing centres, and for foundations that have given the society permission to discuss their goals with the rest of the community.
Madray speaks about the significance of the role of an ally to a group like the Indigenous Students’ Association,
“[Being a good ally] is to be aware of whom you’re an ally with…to become involved with the people with whom you are trying to make a difference for. In doing so, our members will realize that being an ‘ally’ is more than just a word, it’s a progressive commitment,” explained Madray.
Advocacy for such issues comes with many challenges as well.
“As allies, we make it clear to our incoming members that we are not more knowledgeable about any cultural rituals of the Indigenous peoples, but that we are eager to learn and immerse ourselves in their beautiful traditions to gain insight on the cultural diversity at this university,”said Madray.
If you are interested in learning more about the Indigenous Allies Society, visit their Facebook Page here. Students that would like to know more about other Indigenous initiatives around campus are encouraged to speak to Indigenous Student Services.
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