Vote to rename ‘Aboriginal Student Centre’ looks to change outdated term

The Aboriginal Student Centre, located in the Research and Innovation Centre at the U of R, is holding an online vote to rename the centre. The centre is looking to better represent all Indigenous students on campus. Photo by Nathan Meyer

The Aboriginal Student’s Centre at the U of R is taking submissions from the community to rename the centre in order to better identify with Indigenous students and break away from Canada’s colonial history.

Jamin Mike, a fourth-year English student at the U of R, wants the centre to indigenize their name.

“With the move toward revitalizing Indigenous languages, it’s important that we actually name things within Indigenous languages,” said Mike, who is from the Beardy’s & Okemasis Cree Nation, north of Saskatoon, “there’s action there that needs to happen”.

The Aboriginal Student Centre is currently conducting an online re-naming contest for the centre. A committee consisting of elders, students and staff will select the winner April 15.

Misty Longman, manager of the Aboriginal Student Centre, said the decision to change the centre’s name has been discussed for some time.

“There has been a lot of talk about a name change for a few years,” said Longman. “Dropping aboriginal and replacing it with Indigenous has been on the forefront of a lot of peoples’ minds.”

The term ‘aboriginal’ is seen by many indigenous individuals as unfavourable.

“‘Aboriginal’ is a name that is not empowered or acknowledged by First Nations, Metis, Inuit people in our country” said Longman. “It was an umbrella term.”

Mike agrees that the terminology around ‘aboriginal’ needs to change as Canadian society changes.

“The terminology that we traditionally use for Indigenous peoples throughout time needs to evolve with the time as we continue with society,” said Mike.

“When we are having to come to University to maintain jobs within the dominant society, it is just more better that we have the name for Indigenous students within that … the name change will help us feel more welcome and have a home base to go to.”

The new name for the centre will be decided by a committee from the Indigenous students’ association, the First Nations University of Canada, as well as two elders from the community. The change itself won’t occur for another year as the announcement won’t be made until the Fall 2019-2020 academic term. Longman says official implementation won’t begin until the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Longman acknowledges there will be a lot of work in updating the centre’s name.

“You’ve got to change your name, your branding, you have to change your signage” said Longman, “Let’s find a name that really defines what that space means on our campus, so we have a name that fits, it’s suitable, but we don’t have to change it again.”

Mike agrees that there should be a larger push within Regina for location names to better connect with their Indigenous roots.

“There’s a lot of tough relations that happen around the city and if we start acknowledging that there are names for places and Indigenous people are still existing within the greater Regina society it’s important,” said Mike.

Longman echoes that sentiment.

“A lot of times we don’t realize that we are in (Indigenous) spaces,” said Longman. “‘Wascana’, that’s a name that we have that’s already Indigenous.”

Longman encourages individuals to submit votes online through the Aboriginal Student Centre website. About a dozen name suggestions have been submitted.

“We just want everyone’s ideas that can authentically define what our space is,” said Longman, “because it’s a great space and it needs a great name.”

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