From April 4-5, Indigenous students elected council members to the Indigenous Students’ Council at the University of Saskatchewan. However, a lack of college representatives may create poor communication between the ISC, college administrations and student groups campus wide.
The ISC seeks Indigenous representation on the council from specific colleges on campus, but this year, there are vacancies in the health sciences and the colleges of Law and Engineering. These representatives act as liaisons between the ISC and each participating college through either the college administration or the appropriate student union.
Dene Cree Robillard, outgoing vice-president social and culture of the ISC and fourth-year student of the Indian Teacher Education Program in the College of Education, discusses why there was a lack of candidates for college representatives.
“Although we were able to gauge Indigenous student interest in representative positions throughout the school year, we unfortunately came up short with candidate interest, when it came time for our ISC election … I can attribute this to bad timing,” Robillard said, in an email to the Sheaf.
Robillard states that he does not fault the outgoing council for the lack of candidates. He believes that Indigenous communities must continue to build strong leadership with Indigenous voices.
While representing First Nations, Métis and Inuit undergraduate students, the ISC promotes and hosts a variety of cultural, recreational and academic events open to all students on campus.
The college representative positions can be initiated by either the student unions or the administration of the colleges. These representatives work to promote open communication between the council, the college and its student groups. However, maintaining communication may be challenging for the council without student representatives from three of the partnering colleges.
Chennoa Tracey, former College of Engineering representative of the ISC and fourth-year mechanical engineering student, discusses why it is important to have college representatives on the council.
“It’s nice to have everyone equally represented from all colleges, so that … students aren’t ignored and are instead informed of the services and events available to not just [the Indigenous students], but to the college as a whole,” Tracey said, in an email to the Sheaf.
Tracey explains that there have been significant developments in advertising and encouraging Indigenous student engagement in the College of Engineering, such as free soup and bannock lunches with industry professionals, among other program engagement initiatives.
“In my experience, the campus as a whole has done a lot of improvement over the last four years … This could be due to my growing interest in the subject over the years, though, and I may not have seen what was being done when I first started university, due to not actively searching out the information,” Tracey said.
Lisa Durocher-Bouvier, incoming vice-president communications of the ISC and third-year education student, explains what important issues she faces in her position on the council.
“I think that communication amongst [ISC members] is an important issue, as well as how we communicate with students on campus. We need to work together to interest students in participating in extracurricular activities, sports [and] social gatherings, as well as utilizing the services offered at the university,” Durocher-Bouvier said, in an email to the Sheaf.
Robillard explains that, in the past, there have been more students actively participating in the ISC. He credits these previously higher levels of student participation to students advocating against TransformUS and Vision 2025 initiatives, which sought to amalgamate Indigenous and non-Indigenous student programs at the U of S.
The ISC will have a by-election in October 2017 for all remaining council positions. Robillard stresses that issues could arise, if there is a lack of college representatives on the council.
“Without the proper acknowledgement and support for our Indigenous students’ experience and awareness, we might lose out on more than just Indigenous leader representatives down the road …” Robillard said. “We could lose out on overall opportunities in building meaningful dialogue with the rest of the U of S student, staff and faculty body politic.”
Nykole King / News Editor
Photo: J.C. Balicanta Narag / Photo Editor