The University of Regina (U of R) wants to hear students’ feedback on how Indigenous engagement can be improved on campus.
On Feb. 15, the university hosted an open house in its Research and Innovation Centre, in which students used sticky notes to express how they want to see Indigenous representation incorporated into their overall campus experience.
The open house is part of the university’s Indigenous engagement strategic plan. It is designed to receive feedback from a variety of university members including Indigenous peoples, non-Indigenous peoples and international students.
Join us today for the Indigenous Engagement Strategic Plan open house from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Research and Innovation Atrium!
— University of Regina (@UofRegina) February 15, 2023
Ben Redcrow is an Indigenous student at the U of R, as well as student president of the First Nations University of Canada (FNU). He took part in the open house and believes that improvement in Indigenization at the university can be achieved through university executives being educated on Indigenous culture and engaging in regular conversations with Indigenous students about their experiences.
“We have to leave a good footprint for the future generations that come into these institutions,” he said.
“You know, if the university wants to help Indigenous students, by all means, come here, help us. That’s all we want. We want our voices to be heard.”
Redcrow added that he was offered a position as an Indigenous student representative at the university’s student union. He declined because of scheduling conflicts, and because he thinks there are other approaches in representing Indigenous issues on campus.
“I don’t want to be a poster boy for the university in that way. I would prefer for them to have more information on Indigenous culture and understanding instead of just, you know, putting in any Indigenous student in that position,” he said.
The Indigenous engagement strategic plan is led by the U of R’s associate vice president of Indigenous engagement, Lori Campbell.
Campbell, a Métis Two-Spirit woman, said the strategic plan “can look like a lot of things.”
“It can look like having more Indigenous faculty on campus to teach from an Indigenous-centred lens to all students. It can look like having an outdoor classroom space that allows a ceremony. We do a lot of our learning in community around a fire and with smudging and with prayer … It might be around recognizing and understanding the importance of Indigenous research methodology or decolonizing methodology,” she said.
The U of R’s ta-tawâw Student Centre based in the Research and Innovation Centre is starting to incorporate these Indigenous-centred learning experiences. For instance, teachings on traditional smudging practices are taught at the centre on Thursdays, which is open to anyone on campus.
Outside of looking for campus feedback from the open house, Campbell adds that the university’s office of Indigenous engagement plans to collaborate with Indigenous organizations to work on fostering Indigenization on campus.
“We’re working on a very specific policy that will ensure when we put out requests for proposal (RFPs) that we’re seeking out Indigenous businesses and we will set targets to ensure that we’re including Indigenous businesses in the process,” she said.
Campbell emphasized that collaboration with the university was also important in the process. Dr. Eber Hampton, an Indigenous advisor with the office of Indigenous engagement, who has also previously served as president of FNU, agrees with this.
“Everything’s about relationships and building the strength of those relationships and contributing in a positive way to the education at the University of Regina, for all the students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” Hampton said.
Suggestions on Indigenous engagement made at the open house will not be reviewed until spring. Then, the office of Indigenous engagement will look at how to implement those recommendations in the fall semester.
Featured Image: Dr. Eber Hampton and Lori Campbell in the ta-tawâw Student Centre at the University of Regina.