Maanomatapoyah connects Indigenous students, professionals to STEM fields at MRU conference
It's about a sense of community and a sense of belonging, an organiser says
Dozens of Indigenous students and professionals are meeting in Calgary this weekend and they're all connected in some way to the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Mount Royal University is hosting MAANOMATAPOYAH: First Steps, the first Canadian conference for .caISES, the Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering Society.
Twyla Baker-Demaray was attending from North Dakota. She's the board chair of AISES, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
"What people will discover once they come to these types of gatherings is the sense of community that is built here, and a sense of belonging," Baker-Demaray told CBC News.
"Just seeing other people that are doing what they're doing and know the struggles that they're going through, whether you're a professional or a student or somebody that is already out there in industry, it's really the sense of camaraderie and the sense of home."
Melanie Howard is normally based at Queen's University in Kingston, but the director of outreach and aboriginal access for their faculty of engineering and applied science wanted to be at the conference.
"This is an opportunity for Indigenous peoples in science and engineering, either students or professionals, to network, get to know each other across the country," Howard said.
"It's just important to find your people."
A recruiter with Shell Canada says conferences like this are a small step in the right direction.
"I think that's a beautiful thing because the effects of colonization are real," Stuart Young said.
"That's not something that gets erased overnight and that's not something that also gets erased by one party. You can't purely put that on the government to say you have to fix this, you can't purely put it on the individual. Collectively we have to work together and that's what I like about this."
Meanwhile, Baker-Demaray says peer support is a big part of the process.
"There's not a whole lot of representation of Indigenous people in STEM," she said.
"When you find somebody who knows what you're going through, then you have a tendency to be drawn to each other and this is really just a bunch of Indigi-nerds getting together, having a good time, sharing some good food. The collegiality of the whole thing is fantastic."
The three-day conference wraps Sunday at noon.
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With files from CBC's Anis Robert Heydari