Indigenous Students’ Council calls for autonomous governing body, student council reacts

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On Feb. 28, the ISC posted an official statement on their Facebook page, calling for Indigenous students’ autonomy and the creation of an Indigenous students’ union at the University of Saskatchewan and at all academic institutions in Canada.

The ISC has called for the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre to be renamed the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Indigenous Student Union Building.

At the University Students’ Council meeting on March 1, members of students’ council spoke about the ISC’s call to action after prompting from a student guest at the council meeting. The discussion took place after Deena Kapacila, vice-president operations and finance, presented a proposal for the USSU’s 2018-19 operating budget and council decided to table an approval vote until next week.

In the post, the ISC calls for non-participation in the U of S’s efforts to forward reconciliation and Indigenization.

“We are calling on support from All Indigenous and Settler students, Departments, Faculty, Staff and Administrators from across Canada and the world to support our calls for Indigenous Student Autonomy by supporting the Creation of Indigenous Students’ Unions at all academic institutions,” the post states. “Until then, we are calling on non-participation, all Indigenous students to collectively withdraw from administrative committees and councils and to no longer give Indigenous student input and consent.”

The statement also references the ISC’s efforts in the fall and winter terms to advocate for the Indigenous student body among individuals in office in student, civic and federal government.

After the student attendee questioned council about the post, U of S Students’ Union President David D’Eon provided an initial response during the meeting, stating that the union needs more information, while reaffirming the USSU’s commitment to Indigenization.

“We will remain committed to Indigenization and reconciliation, and we will continue to move forward in any way appropriate to make this campus a better place for Indigenous students. In terms of what is being asked of the USSU, we simply do not have enough information at this time to say much of anything,” D’Eon said.

Following D’Eon’s response, Aidan Murphy, a councillor from the College of Arts and Science, made a motion for the USC to support the ISC’s call to action.

“Regardless of what policy specifics [or] what sort of meetings specifically need to happen with administration [and] with the USSU in terms of what this looks like, … I would ask today of a motion that we support the spirit of an autonomous Indigenous Students’ Union,” Murphy said.

D’Eon advised council to vote down Murphy’s motion and to wait for better understanding of the situation before supporting the call. He added that moving forward with the ISC’s call to create an autonomous students’ union could prove legally problematic for the USSU, a statement that was supported by Kapacila.

“There is a possible conflict with the fiduciary duty of the USSU… Based on their demands, the result could be disastrous for the students’ body. This is something that I’ve communicated with the ISC in the past, that I’ve communicated with their president, member [Regan] Ratt-Misponas. And so, I understand and respect the will of the motion [Murphy has] put forward, but I would advise very extreme caution moving forward on this,” D’Eon said.

He also noted that the USSU will reach out to the ISC to discuss the post, and emphasized that the USSU must take time to consider the situation before supporting such a motion.

“I do not want us voting down this motion to be in anyway an implication that we are standing against an Indigenous students’ body. We just don’t know where to stand right now,” D’Eon said.

During the meeting, he also offered a statement concerning his personal feelings about the post.

“I will say, as a personal note, it was disappointing for me to see that post because of the amount of work I have put in helping the ISC this year,” D’Eon said.

Councillor Austin Heinz, from Edwards School of Business, agreed that the motion should be tabled to allow council members more time to process.

“This is the first time that I think a lot of people at this council are hearing of this post,” Heinz said.

The current councillor representing Indigenous students was not present at this council meeting, and while there are two Indigenous student seats on the council, one seat has been vacant since Oct. 5, 2017.

In an unopposed vote, the council tabled Murphy’s motion until the next council meeting on March 8, a move Murphy supported after reconsideration.

For the full statement from the ISC as it appeared on Facebook on March 1, please see below.

Emily Migchels / Opinions Editor

Photo: Caitlin Taylor

 


 

Official Statement of the Indigenous Students’ Council

February 28, 2018

As of today the Indigenous Students’ Council is calling for Indigenous Student non-participation in the Reconciliation and Indigenization efforts being promoted by USASK administrative councils. Over the last nine months our ISC has been advocating for our 2,500 self-declared Indigenous Students meeting with individuals such as President D’Eon of the USSU, President Stoicheff of the University of Saskatchewan, Mayor Charlie Clark of the City of Saskatoon, and Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

As students, we have sacrificed our own time to ensure the sustainability of the ISC without being a decision maker in the affairs of the University of Saskatchewan, we have supported topics of Indigenization and Reconciliation which is a commitment of the University of Saskatchewan only to hear administrators call for further reconciliation and uplift these stale old efforts as an attempt to co-opt indigenous students into the Canadian politic. We are Indigenous students. However, we are first and foremost Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Citizens representing our own unique Indigenous nations. Despite existing and operating on Indigenous lands we are treated like potential threats and see all the effort that goes into keeping us complacent within the western structure and settler ideology of USASK and Canada..

Colonialism, Settler Colonialism and racism exists on campus. We have experienced first hand the tension on campus as a result of the Gerald Stanley and Cormier Trials, and see no support services or calls to action in regards to the injustice our people face across Canada. We are shocked at the lack of support and ongoing calls for reconciliation, which has yield little practical results. We take offense to the toe the line speeches and the uplifting of a colonial institution.

We are told to maintain hope and toe the line of Reconciliation and Indigenization. However, we have not seen any real systemic change occur on campus. We are controlled, regulated, and limited in our ability to govern and develop the solutions our Indigenous Students need. We are looked upon as impoverished threats unable to govern ourselves, we see security cameras directed to us as we attempt to study in one of our safe havens, the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre.

We are tired of the colonial dynamic unfolding on our campus, the systemic racism, and the blatant racism we face everyday. We feel that USASK administration is benefiting from Indigenous Student labour to consent and agree with the colonial paradigms of administration. Indigenous students are looked upon as an economy to generate profit, they are making money off our presence and we are tired of being taken advantage of, and we will no longer toe the line of Reconciliation and Indigenization.

We see how Indigenization and Reconciliation is only benefiting the careers and names of individuals well embedded within this institution and not benefiting us as Indigenous students. We are told change takes years to happen, when we have been waiting for generations. We choose to remind everyone that Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine did not have the opportunity to attend university, and do not have the opportunity to wait 20 years for systemic change.

We call on change now, today.

We call on USASK administration, Indigenous Student leaders, Councils, and Organizations to support us. We are calling for all indigenous students to come together as a community to rescind current ratifications and sever ties from Settler Student Unions and create an Indigenous Students Union. We call on the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre to be recognized as the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Indigenous Student Union Building. We call for our student fees to be rerouted to our student bodies in the form of this Indigenous Student Union, we have the answers, we have the solutions, but we do not have the financial means and space to meet the needs of our student population.

We are calling on support from All Indigenous and Settler students, Departments, Faculty, Staff and Administrators from across Canada and the world to support our calls for Indigenous Student Autonomy by supporting the Creation of Indigenous Students’ Unions at all academic institutions. Let this be known as our generation’s step towards a decolonial future.

Until then, we are calling on non-participation, all Indigenous students to collectively withdraw from administrative committees and councils and to no longer give Indigenous student input and consent.

To all Indigenous Students, the greatest resource we have on campus is each other. During this time, the ISC calls upon our Indigenous student community to remain resilient and come together as we move forward.