Sudbury·Audio

Laurentian University hosts 'Maamwizing' Indigenous conference

Scholars, faculty and students from across Canada are in Sudbury this weekend to talk about how post-secondary schools can be more inclusive to Indigenous people.

Over 200 people expected at event, with guests from as far away as New Zealand and New Mexico

Maamwazing means "to come together," and the conference organizers pictured here hope that more than 200 Indigenous faculty and students do just that. (Angela Gemmill CBC)
How can universities improve their policies to include Indigenous people? That is one of the topics up for discussion at the Maamwizing Indigenous Conference at Laurentian University. We heard more from Sheila Cote Meek, the chair of the conference.
Scholars, faculty and students from across Canada are in Sudbury this weekend to talk about how post-secondary schools can be more inclusive to Indigenous people.

Laurentian University is hosting the Maamwazing Indigenous conference, which event organizers say will bring more than 200 people to campus, including guests from New Zealand and New Mexico.

Maamwazing means "to come together," said event co-chair Sheila Coté-Meek. 

The goal of the conference will focus on the the challenges facing Indigenous students and faculty at Canadian universities. 

Brock Pitawanakwat of the University of Sudbury said there`s been major progress in academia since the 1950s when education was used as a weapon against Indigenous people.

"It's exciting to be in a university at a time when we're having more influence on program development and course development," he said, "so it's an opportunity to actually have Indigenous empowerment."

A conference to 'rejuvenate the spirit'

Taima Moeke-Pickering, the director of the School of Indigenous Relations at Laurentian, hopes the event allows indigenous faculty and students to "rejuvenate their spirit."

"They can hear the others' stories, we can choose strategies, we can reclaim the language, we can talk about issues that are sensitive, and look at ideas that we can take back to our universities, we can write about in our thesis, we can take back to our families," she said.

But despite the goodwill and positive environment, Laurentian assistant professor Michelle Coupal said there are still challenges that need to be addressed.

The classroom, Coupal said, needs to be a safe space for all students, regardless of their differences.

"We`re talking a lot of reconciliation, but in this real world Indigenous people are being attacked for trying to defend the land," Coupal said, "so we really really need to work in the classroom to foster dialogue and discussion around these issues and to foster real activism."

The Maamwazing Indigenous Conference runs from November 18 - 20. There will also be a showcase of several Indigenous artists from around the Sudbury area.

Listen to the story here

With files from Angela Gemmill.

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