The men and women stand in a line, draped in a collage of colourful beads, feathers and intricate patterns. A few have braided their lengthy hair and gently placed it over their shoulders. A drum beats powerful bass notes beside them.
One by one, they step forward and perform traditional First Nations dances. Some buckle their knees and swoop toward the floor, while others pepper the ground with sharp, quick footsteps.
“The dancers are demonstrating traditional dances and songs of the people of the plains,” said Graeme Joseph, team leader of First Nations, Métis and Inuit student success with the University of Saskatchewan Aboriginal Students’ Centre (ASC). “The ASC wishes to highlight the cultural diversity of the people of Treaty 6 and the province of Saskatchewan.”
The performance helped launch the festivities of Aboriginal Achievement Week, a five-day event celebrated annually at the U of S. The goal of the week, said Joseph, is to shine a spotlight on the success of the vibrant and vital Indigenous community at the university.
“Making the university a welcoming place for Aboriginal students is really important, and intercultural education is an important part of this work,” he said. “Events such as Aboriginal Achievement Week are an important opportunity for all people to learn more about Aboriginal history, culture and contemporary issues, and to celebrate the contributions that Aboriginal students, staff and faculty make to the university community.”
Even more important is to recognize the increasingly important role that Indigenous people will play on campus moving forward. Joseph said Aboriginal Achievement Week offers the perfect opportunity to address that reality.
“As many more Aboriginal youth pursue a university education, once they graduate, many of these students will be taking on leadership roles as nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers within Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities across Saskatchewan,” he said. “People should see Aboriginal students as leaders and people ready and able to take on these challenges and opportunities.”
Aboriginal Achievement Week runs from Feb 27 - March 3. A few select events are detailed below. For complete details of the week’s activities, please visit the event website.
Metis Jiggers: March 2, 12 noon at Upper Place Riel.
Aboriginal Student Achievement Awards Ceremony: March 2, 2:30 pm at Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre — A time to honour and celebrate the academic accomplishments, research endeavours, leadership and community involvement of Aboriginal students.
Aboriginal Achievement Week Gala: March 2, 6 pm at St. Thomas More College Choices Cafeteria — To celebrate this year’s Aboriginal Achievement Week Award recipients.
Aboriginal Achievement Week Round Dance: March 3, 7 pm in the Education Gymnasium — Celebrating and concluding Aboriginal Achievement Week.