It has been an eventful two-and-a-half years since I began my journey here at Mount Allison University. When I started my position as Indigenous affairs co-ordinator it was Mount Allison's Year of the Environment. What a beautiful way to work towards change for the Indigenization of campus. This theme was followed by the President's announcement of the Year of Indigenous Knowing (2016-17) and the Year of Indigenous Action (2017-18).
That first year was a year of many robust events. Looking back, to be honest, I had no way of knowing where to start. I began the process by finding out where we were, what we needed to do, and how were we going to get there.
Fall 2015 began with a small Mowiomi event complete with Indigenous dancers and drummers. The next day we had group sessions full of info and questions. The process had been set in motion. We had a plan.
From that profound beginning, we have accomplished more than I thought was imaginable.
We now have many supports for Indigenous students: a mentorship program, tutoring, Indigenous scholarships and bursaries, smudging in residences, the Indigenous Student Support group and many connections to valuable resources on campus. I have worked to help build lasting and respectful relationships between students and professors. The University has grown in its wealth of knowledge through the President's Speakers Series and its engagement with Indigenous speakers and communities.
The University now has an Indigenous Advisory Circle, an Elder-in-Residence, an Indigenous Studies course, Indigenous faculty, and most importantly a Mawita'mkw — a place where students can live, laugh and build relationships safely. This is a space that has been adorned with Indigenous art work donated by President Campbell and Dr. Christl Verduyn and a library filled with Indigenous literature graciously provided by Dr. Christl Verduyn.
The future will see a medicine garden on campus, the Mi'kmaq flag flying permanently, and hopefully a voice on Senate. I have worked to begin closing the gap between cultures and I can only hope that since my retirement, others will keep the ball rolling.
My last words: When we know better, we do better!
Doreen Richard ('96)
Mount Allison's first Indigenous Affairs Co-ordinator
Editor's note: Doreen retired from Mount Allison in December 2017. She continues to be an integral part of Mount Allison's reconciliaACTION efforts as a member of the Indigenous Advisory Circle. Emma Hassencahl-Perley ('17) began in the co-ordinator's role in January.