The national forum, which was first held in Saskatoon as an initiative of the U of S in 2015, brings together university representatives and Indigenous leaders and focuses on how universities can work toward reconciliation in their research, teaching, community engagement and student support work.
A walking stick will formally be presented to U of A President David Turpin by U of S Chancellor Blaine Favel on Sept. 28 during an official transfer ceremony that will begin the forum. The walking stick was made by Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation, a First Nation that spans Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“The walking stick is a symbol of gathering and truth telling,” said Favel. “It is fitting that this gift is given as representatives from across the country gather in Edmonton to discuss this matter that affects us all: reconciliation between Indigenous people and Canada.”
Favel went on to further describe the intent behind this gift: “Right now, the walking stick is adorned with the logos of the past and present university hosts of this conference: the Universities of Saskatchewan and Alberta. In the future, the logos of other host universities will be added to the walking stick, and it will become a symbol of the commitment from across the country to bringing about reconciliation. The walking stick will be a visual representation of the important role that universities have to play in bringing about reconciliation.”
Patti McDougall, vice-provost, teaching and learning at the U of S, echoed Favel’s sentiments about the responsibilities of Canadian universities in constructively contributing to the national conversation on reconciliation.
“At the first national Building Reconciliation forum held at the U of S in November 2015, now Senator Murray Sinclair told the audience that education got us into the struggles we face and education will get us out,” said McDougall. “Universities are places for big ideas, where we can educate students about both historical and contemporary sociocultural circumstances and call on them to be part of the changes that are needed. Working together, universities can play a critical role in closing the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”
Remarking on the success of the previous forum at the U of S, McDougall is confident that continuing a dialogue on reconciliation with other post-secondary institutions will continue to be valuable. “The national and now annual Building Reconciliation forum gives Canadian universities the opportunity to learn from each other and to inspire each other when it comes to changing ways of thinking and ways of doing in post-secondary education. This is made possible when we come together in intentional ways to share what’s happening and what’s working and walk away with new learning around Indigenous world views.”
The forum is being held in Edmonton at the U of A campus on Sept. 28 and 29.
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