June 21, 2017

Students Mark National Aboriginal Day

As the rest of the country celebrates Canada 150, the Canadian Federation of Students honours the First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities challenging the ongoing colonization of their land, water and culture. We celebrate the Indigenous students who are speaking up to demand social, economic and environmental justice for their campuses and communities. These powerful leaders continue to build and strengthen the student movement’s work. This National Aboriginal Day, the Canadian Federation of Students is reaffirming its commitment to centre Indigenous voices and experiences in the student movement.

While we celebrate these communities today, we also acknowledge the impact of ongoing colonization on Indigenous nations across Turtle Island. The intergenerational impact of past colonial violence is compounded by ongoing efforts to ignore the rights of Indigenous peoples under the guise of capitalism and economic development. We call on our 650,000 members from coast to coast to take action and join in solidarity with the thousands of voices that are challenging new colonial efforts aimed at the continued erasure of the voices and experiences of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

Here are just a few steps you and your students’ union can take to support Indigenous students on your campus:

1. Acknowledge stolen land.

Many of our campuses across the country exist on the traditional land of Indigenous peoples.

  • Research your community to show respect and recognition for the rightful owners of the land. A great guide for discovering if your campus sits on territories of Indigenous nations was developed by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and can be found here.
  • If your campus is located on the traditional land of Indigenous peoples, acknowledge this both verbally and in writing. For example, begin any meetings or events with a statement acknowledging the Nation whose land you are settlers on.
  • Take time to educate yourself and those around you on the history of that land and its people. Understand the unique ways in which colonial violence impacted that Nation and learn how our modern existence continues to erase Indigenous experiences.
  • Include Indigenous representation in your initiatives and ensure that all forms of labour Indigenous community members take on are recognized and compensated.

2. Join our call for universal post-secondary education.

While we were encouraged to see $90 million of new funding over two years for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program in the the 2017 Federal Budget, this commitment still falls short of the Liberal Party’s election promise of $50 million per year and does not address the eligibility of Métis and non-status First Nations students.

  • Join the Federation’s calls for the federal government to fulfill its treaty obligations and ensure that all Indigenous learners are able to pursue post-secondary education without cost.

We must continue to challenge the ongoing role that Western academia has had in colonialism.

  • Students at Lakehead University (Local 32) and the University of Winnipeg (Local 8) have been at the forefront of work to decolonize and Indigenize their campuses. Learn from these examples and begin the work to introduce a mandatory Indigenous course requirement on your campus. To help you do this work, the Federation has developed a guide you can find here.

3. Show solidarity for land and water protectors.

Over the past year, Indigenous communities and allies have taken direct action to challenge the colonizing actions of corporations and governments on Indigenous land across Turtle Island, including Standing Rock and Muskrat Falls. Today, Indigenous land and water protectors continue to fight to protect their rights and the Canadian Federation of Students stands in solidarity with these activists.

  • Land and water protectors endure extreme conditions while protesting and are often in need of tangible supports. Bring a motion forward to your students’ union to contribute financially to these movements. When financial contributions are not possible, organizational contributions such as helping set up or clean up after direct actions, hosting discussions or doing general outreach are also greatly appreciated.
  • Solidarity can take several the forms, including building awareness on social media, contacting your local Member of Parliament or simply educating those around you about the ongoing injustices faced by Indigenous communities across Turtle Island.
  • Remember when showing solidarity to always centre the voices of those most marginalized by the impacts of colonialism and use your platforms to amplify their voices.

4. Challenge cultural appropriation in your community.

Cultural appropriation involves taking a part of a culture that you are not a member of. It might be translated as wearing or imitating cultures, stereotypes, races, ethnicities or religion. It disempowers the communities targeted and perpetuates racism.

On campuses across the country, cultural appropriation has been condoned by campus events, including sporting events, concerts and costume parties, especially during Halloween.

  • Challenge cultural appropriation by calling it out, not adopting sacred artifacts as accessories, supporting Indigenous artists and participating in the #NotYourStereotype campaign. Learn more about the campaign and order materials here.

5. Support calls for justice.

The Canadian Federation of Students stands with Indigenous communities and student leaders who are fighting for access to clean drinking water and justice in the National Inquiry into the epidemic of Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Individuals who are missing and murdered.

  • Support the Where’s the Justice campaign and participate in it.
  • Donate to the national Access 2 Clean Water cross-country run to raise awareness about drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities.
  • As the National Inquiry continues, continue to pressure your political representatives to ensure that this process centres the voices of those impacted, including those whose lives have been treated as disposable.

6. Encourage Indigenous student leaders to join the Circle of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Students.

This year, the Federation hosted the 30th meeting of the Circle of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Students on Treaty 4 Territory at the First Nations University of Canada. This was the largest gathering of Indigenous students in the Federation’s history, with over 50 Indigenous student leaders coming together to build a space for kinship, healing and developing campaign and lobbying goals for the upcoming year.

  • Invite Indigenous students from your campus to attend a meeting of the Circle and participate in the only national organization for Indigenous students in the country.
  • Develop spaces on your campus to help support these leaders and give them opportunities to be compensated for their work.