Nfld. & Labrador

University looks for answers on how to represent Indigenous people better at MUN

The university's Aboriginal affairs special advisor is facilitating a meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and seeking input.

One of several meetings to be held Monday in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Catharyn Andersen, special advisor on Aboriginal affairs with Memorial University, is facilitating a meeting tonight on better representing Indigenous people and culture at the university. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Memorial University is travelling the province to hear from Indigenous people in Newfoundland and Labrador about how the university can better represent them in post-secondary education.

Through a series of consultations — including one Monday in Happy Valley-Goose Bay — the institution hopes to learn how it can bring better Indigenous representation to the school.

"We've been talking about Indigenization, really, since the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] released their report," said Catharyn Andersen, special advisor for Aboriginal affairs with Memorial University, who will facilitate the meeting at the Nunacor office.

The federal commission released a report in June 2015 with 94 calls to action for reconciliation. A number were addressed to post-secondary institutions, asking them to respond to different issues in education, health care and social work, Andersen said.

It's about integrating Indigenous ways of doing, Indigenous ways of being, Indigenous ways of knowing.- Catharyn Andersen

A recent term, Indigenization can be interpreted in different ways but generally refers to bringing things under the influence or control of Indigenous people.

"Indigenization, I guess, is really a continuum of things," Andersen said. "It can be around inclusion, it can be around reconciliation, it can be about decolonization. But it's about integrating Indigenous ways of doing, Indigenous ways of being, Indigenous ways of knowing."

Improving efforts

There has been a shift in the discussions of Indigenization and Indigenous people in the past few years, Andersen said, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Some of that work is simply making people aware that Indigenization exists, and what that looks like, she said.

The Indigenous people of Newfoundland and Labrador weren't included in the terms of reference when the province joined Confederation, and as a result many people believed — and still believe — that there were no Indigenous people in the province in modern times, she said.

Events like Memorial University's Friday drum circle provides those students today with visibility and recognition, she added.

"I think that's one of the things that, as a university, we have an obligation to do, to not just raise awareness around it but also educate people around it," she said.

Encouraging suggestions

Andersen and team hope to get further insight into those interactions, and how universities can encourage more of them.

"We want to hear their stories, their experiences, and get a sense of what's important to them around Indigenization and what that could look like at Memorial."

With files from Labrador Morning

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador