Elizabeth Duret has served as the University of Saskatchewan’s inclusion and diversity consultant since 2015. (Photo: James Shewaga)

USask Indigenous Gathering fosters inclusivity and diversity

When Elizabeth (Liz) Duret came to the University of Saskatchewan (USask) four years ago, her focus was to create an inclusive and diverse campus community.

The goals included providing education and training, increasing the diversity of USask’s workforce through recruitment, and enhancing hiring practices with a strategic focus on Indigenous people.

Now, as her role and the needs of the campus community have evolved, Duret focuses on educating and empowering employees—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

“I’m so proud of the work that we’ve done at USask and of the incredible Indigenous community we have on campus,” said Duret, USask’s inclusion and diversity consultant. “In my role I feel very connected to my community but certainly not to everyone, as the campus is so big it is hard to connect. I know at times that many Indigenous employees feel alone and isolated.”

It was with this in mind that Duret began to organize the Indigenous Gathering, an event celebrating the diversity, strength, resilience and rich cultural history of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. Now in its third year, the Indigenous Gathering brings together staff and faculty from across units and colleges.

“On the surface, the Indigenous Gathering is a fun and welcoming day for Indigenous employees across campus to connect and celebrate their heritage, but at its heart it is a critical opportunity to support staff and faculty on their own journeys,” said Duret.

As the university’s commitment to reconciliation and Indigenization continues to grow, Duret said it’s critical that Indigenous employees are supported. Indigenous employees provide unique support across campus for co-workers and students while enhancing USask’s commitment to reconciliation and Indigenization.

“Indigenous Peoples are on their own unique path to reconciliation, and for some, the Indigenous Gathering is their first step to understanding their ancestry,” she said.

While exploring ancestry is a distinctly personal journey, USask employees are in a unique position when it comes to reconciliation and Indigenization.

“A lot of times Indigenous employees are looked to as experts in Indigeneity,” said Duret. “We are faced with questions and conversations that can be really difficult, especially depending on where you’re at in your journey. Even for myself, as inclusion and diversity consultant, I’m on my own journey. Growing up and into early adulthood, I wasn’t always proud to be Métis.”

“It’s my hope that this event not only brings together the Indigenous community on campus, but highlights all of the incredible work that’s being done,” she added.

“USask has so much to be proud of. We’re building the university the world needs, and for me that starts right here with our own community. When we create connections and work together, the benefits of the good work we’re doing can only spread faster and wider.”

The theme for 2019’s Indigenous Gathering on Oct. 17 is Honouring our Voices and will feature keynote speaker Candy Palmater, a broadcaster, comic and motivational speaker who focuses on Indigenous rights, diversity and the power of language.

All Indigenous faculty and staff are invited to attend. Registration is now available online.

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