Engaging in reconciliation

More than 20% of Grenfell students are Indigenous, from diverse contemporary Indigenous groups including surrounding Mi’kmaw communities as well as Innu and Inuit communities in Labrador and groups outside the province.

At Grenfell Campus, as we acknowledge our presence in traditional Mi’kmaw territory, we also respect the diverse histories and cultures of the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, Innu, and Inuit. It is critical that this is reflected in our programming, curriculum, and space.

Programs and services for Indigenous students include the Indigenous Student Caucus, Indigenous Student Centre, Kekina’mut Indigenous Peer Liaison program, designated seats programs, housing agreements for Nunatsiavut beneficiaries, and culturally safe spaces

Alumna Bethany Bernier wearing indigenous regalia during a ceremony on campus.

for practicing smudging and Kullik lighting. In addition to programs specific to students, we also engage in a variety of campus-wide initiatives toward education and reconciliation including the creation of an Indigenous Resource Centre, cultural gatherings such as the Grenfell Campus All-Nations Powwow each fall and Indigenous Peoples Week each winter, and community-engagement projects such as the Grenfell Campus Wampum Belt Project and the KAIROS Blanket Exercise.

Awards specific to Indigenous students have also been developed, including most recently the Kathryn Maroun Award in Honour of Mother Earth, the Calvin White Indigenous Leadership Award, and the Marina Bennett Butler Mi’kmaw Nursing Award. The Maroun family has also generously established the In.Business Indigenous Student Mentorship program at Grenfell Campus to connect Indigenous high school students with business mentors. This program has had significant success in Cape Breton and throughout Canada and we are excited to introduce it here in the coming months.

In 2018, the Two-Eyed Seeing symposium brought together representatives from Grenfell Campus and Qalipu First Nation to learn from each other and explore avenues toward respectful and meaningful collaborations. More recently, Grenfell facilitated the Indigenous Forest Values and Engagement workshop, bringing together Mi’kmaw knowledge keepers and Canadian Forest Service scientists.

Kelly Anne Butler is an adjunct professor in Humanities and Grenfell’s student affairs officer-Indigenous Affairs. In the courses she teaches, she works to make the university more accessible by using technology to bring courses to people in their home communities. This includes collaboration with “community partner classrooms” as well as livestream video for students in their own homes, from as far away as Wisconsin, Calgary, and Costa Rica, but primarily from Newfoundland and Labrador.

We recognize reconciliation as a process, and we work every day to further our own understanding of reconciliation, respectful engagement, and cultural humility as we seek to weave Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing into the fabric of the campus.