Jacqueline Ottmann

Message from vice-provost Indigenous engagement

Last week, a statement was posted on social media by our Indigenous Students’ Council (ISC) regarding their concerns about reconciliation efforts on campus. This statement has been followed by other statements by the ISC, the Indigenous Graduate Students’ Council (IGSC), and other Indigenous student groups. I want to advise the university community of the steps we are taking to assist and to ensure that our Indigenous students feel supported and know that we are listening.

As soon as I became aware of the post, I reached out to student leaders in both the ISC and IGSC to talk about the concerns and requests they expressed. We held a meeting last week with several of the student leaders. It was a positive discussion and resulted in a commitment to ongoing dialogue. At that time, the students indicated that they would like to connect in with their membership before speaking with us again. I respect the need of students to consult and look forward to continuing our discussion when they are ready. 

I reiterated to the students that many of us, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty and staff, are here for them, and that we are dedicated to their success. We are listening. We want to understand specific concerns and take steps toward positive change wherever possible.

The university administration has always been supportive of any student group wanting to formalize their governance structure and respects the autonomy of students to govern themselves, including the Indigenous Students’ Council. We understand and know it’s not the university’s role to interfere with student groups and student unions. We believe in the principles of student autonomy, and are here to support the process for all students.

We encourage students to continue to be involved through their student governments and through collegial decision-making bodies of the institution to make their voices heard on all matters that affect students. We encourage all Indigenous students, staff and faculty to continue to be involved in the life of the university at all levels. Your voices are valued and needed.

As a national leader in Indigenization, there has been much progress made at the U of S. However, we know there is much more work to be done, and to do so, we must keep the dialogue going. Working together with Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and community—in respectful, reciprocal relationships focused on repair, restoration and renewal and work done in a good way— is how we will move closer to reconciliation. This has been a particularly difficult period over the past few weeks for our Indigenous community on campus, and I appreciate the many gatherings that colleges and units have organized in support. I ask everyone to please keep moving forward on the important work we are all doing to help make our university a place where Indigenous students, and all students, feel safe, supported and empowered.


Jackie Ottmann
Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement