Elizabeth Duret, inclusion and diversity consultant with human resources.

Indigenous staff members prepare for May gathering

Elizabeth Duret is dedicated to building a vibrant community of Indigenous faculty and staff at the University of Saskatchewan.

On Monday, May 1, the U of S will celebrate its family of Aboriginal employees by hosting a one-day spring gathering at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, led by Duret through the Human Resources Division.

“We want to bring people together to let them know that we are all there to support one another and it will be a great opportunity for people to make new connections,” said Duret, the university’s inclusion and diversity consultant. “I think any time that we can get our community together and share our journeys, our stories and our shared experiences as Aboriginal people, that builds a stronger community and an environment that we can thrive in.”

The first-time event, open to all self-declared Indigenous employees of the U of S, is entitled The Strength Within and will feature discussions, presentations and informal networking, celebrating accomplishments, honouring contributions, and promoting cultural connections and identity.

Elders from the community will also be involved in the gathering, while Dr. Evan Adams, chief medical officer for the First Nations Health Authority, will serve as the keynote speaker.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for informal discussions, for people to make connections and help reinforce the idea that I am not alone,” said Duret.

While the university has made great strides in attracting record numbers of Aboriginal students to campus, there is still plenty of work to do to in terms of hiring Indigenous employees in order to meet the provincial target of 12 per cent of the total workforce. Duret, who is Métis, said a key component of that priority is building support systems across campus in order to retain our current staff and faculty.

“We want to build our own internal Indigenous community and that takes more Indigenous faculty, more Indigenous staff members,” said Vice-Provost of Teaching and Learning Patti McDougall, who helps oversee Aboriginal initiatives across campus.

“We’ve had success in hiring both staff and faculty and we want to build on that success by creating more role models so that when our Indigenous students come to campus, they see themselves in our people, our places and our spaces.”

For Duret, that means hiring First Nations, Métis and Inuit employees is only the first step. Retention is just as critical to building a vibrant and growing Indigenous workforce for the future.

“We have to look at our retention efforts so that once we get people here, we want to make sure that they feel welcomed, that they feel celebrated and included and that they work in an inclusive environment,” she said. “It’s a journey and as long as we are taking steps forward, that’s what’s important.”
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