Aboriginal Initiatives: Office opens off campus

The University of Saskatchewan has a long history of bringing programming to and creating connections with First Nation and Métis communities in Saskatchewan. Building on that tradition is the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives at the English River First Nation urban reserve. These connections strength-en the university’s ability to deliver on its Aboriginal engagement strategy, said Joan Greyeyes, so the University of Saskatchewan was looking for further opportunities to engage with First Nation and Métis communities.

"When office space became available at the English River First Nation (located just south of Saskatoon on Highway 11), we saw the potential for further partnerships", added Greyeyes, special advisor to the president on Aboriginal issues. "That it is situated on First Nation land signifies to the Aboriginal people that we are sincere in establishing long term relationships."

The office is an opportunity for the university to offer expertise from its colleges, departments, and units to First Nations and Métis people, she explained. "These connections will develop strong relationships," adding that the sharing of knowledge goes both ways. "We want to see First Nation and Métis leadership addressing contemporary Aboriginal issues with the university's faculty, staff and students."

The College of Agriculture and Bioresources, for example, has an array of workshops covering various topics of land management that they hold at the office every other week. "There are opportunities for every college and department on campus to be involved and help share their expertise," said Greyeyes.

The office will seek to advance Aboriginal initiatives of the university, said Candace Wasacase-Lafferty, director of Aboriginal engagement in the Human Resources Division. "This is a centre for prospective students, researchers, employees and other members of First Nation and Métis communities to learn about the university and its programming. It is intended for university members, First Nation and Métis people to engage and benefit from each other's knowledge."

The office has a number of key indicators to measure success, said Wasacase-Lafferty. "We will know it is working when we see Aboriginal people making contact with the university's colleges, departments and units, and when the university community becomes more aware of the issues that affect the everyday lives of the Aboriginal community. Increased participation of First Nation and Metis people in the University of Saskatchewan as faculty, staff and students continues to be a high priority for the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives."

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