Sunrise ceremony marks UW’s commitment to reconciliation, indigenization and decolonization


A sunrise ceremony held Thursday at the United College Ceremonial Fire Grounds signaled the University of Waterloo’s commitment to reconciliation, indigenization and decolonization.

The Indigenous peoples of the school demand the university’s full commitment to meaningful work towards the process of reclaiming Indigenous identity and culture.

“We are asking for the commitment because the university has only recently started working on Indigenous issues and creating strategies and ensuring that we are a welcoming place for Indigenous people,” said Jean Becker, Assistant Vice President of Indigenous Relations. , told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo The morning edition following the ceremony.

“I think this day is going to let everyone at the university know about the intent and the seriousness of the work we are doing,” she said.

Tobacco was distributed at Thursday’s sunrise ceremony to throw into the fire. A pipe ceremony also took place shortly afterwards. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

This work includes creating spaces for Indigenous students throughout the school and the school’s efforts to hire more Indigenous faculty.

“We’re hiring more staff in core core units where we’ve identified that we should be putting Indigenous people in charge of the indigenization efforts that we’re doing,” Becker said.

Renewed commitment

Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor of the university, said that while the university has made similar commitments in the past, it is essential that indigenous leaders guide this work now.

“Maybe the engagement was done in our form, using our strategies and our boardrooms,” he said. “Today, symbolically, we are taking the pledge in a series of ceremonies that will be led by our Indigenous community leaders in their form.”

A cedar circle followed by a pipe ceremony and a traditional feast also took place after the sunrise ceremony.

An aboriginal elder holding an eagle feather stands in the center of a ceremonial fire.
Indigenous knowledge keeper Myeengun Henry led the sunrise ceremony at the United College Ceremonial Fire Grounds. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Indigenous knowledge keeper Myeengun Henry, who led the sunrise ceremony on Thursday, said the school’s commitment is an important effort that will enable staff, faculty and students to indigenize the university.

“I’ve worked in places where it didn’t come from the top, but people wanted to do it and they didn’t know how far they could make it work,” he said.

“The difference here is that the president and our provost will commit to it,” he added.

Going forward, Goel said the school will take a fundamental look at how it delivers its programs and how and where it recruits students.

“It’s going to mean changes…in the types of programs we offer so that there are programs that are meaningful for these future students,” he said.

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