Indigenous Achievement Week brings communities together

By in Opinions

At the University of Saskatchewan, groups across campus — including the Indigenous Students’ Council and the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program, known as SUNTEP — are preparing to celebrate Indigenous students, faculty and leaders on campus during Indigenous Achievement Week.

The IAW is an annual occurrence at the U of S taking place this year from Feb. 5 to 9, and the events promise to be better than ever — and there will be about 20 events over the course of the week. To start things off, everyone is welcome to join in a morning pipe ceremony and feast to be held in the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre.

Then, on Feb. 6, the same centre — where students usually go to study, hang out and make friends, and where staff are committed to the personal and academic success of Indigenous students — will be transformed into the Indigenous Achievement Week Arts Festival, with a gala to follow on Feb. 8.

The IAW Arts Festival is dedicated to showcasing the artistry and creativity of Indigenous students, and the gala will celebrate the achievements and contributions of Indigenous faculty, students and leaders at the U of S with an awards ceremony.

The Arts Festival is a studentled event and has been coordinated this year by SUNTEP student Sabrina Macnab.

Students will have a chance to share their art at the IAW Arts Festival.

“The Arts Festival is really important to celebrate and showcase the different and diverse talent that our Indigenous student body has on campus. It’s an event that brings all of us in the Indigenous body together, too, so it’s just a nice way to showcase our different talents,” Macnab said.

The Arts Festival, set up as a come-and-go event, will showcase 13 student artists whose work will be vetted by a selection committee.

Macnab hopes to have Bannock Bistro & Catering — owned by Juno-award-winner Chester Knight — cater the event with bannock and tea. The walls will be decorated with visual art, beadwork and more. There will also be a mini stage where artists will be singing and reading poetry. Macnab says goers may also see performances by traditional dancers.

The gala has been organized by the Indigenous Students’ Council. Indigenous leaders, faculty, artists and members of the public can come together to celebrate the achievements, success and creativity of Indigenous artists, faculty and leaders on campus.

This year, the gala will feature keynote speaker Kendal Netmaker, U of S alumnus and founder and owner of Neechie Gear. Netmaker’s mission is to empower leaders and entrepreneurs around the globe.

At this time in society, when Indigenous people are often stereotyped as underachieving, the IAW is a great way to show the campus community the positive and stunning talent and successes that come from Indigenous people at the U of S.

At the U of S, more than 2,900 students have self declared as having Indigenous ancestry, and there are nine programs dedicated to Indigenous students. With events like the IAW, the U of S continues to make strides to welcome and encourage Indigenous people to apply and study here.

From my own perspective as an Indigenous student, I can certainly identify how important it is that we acknowledge each other’s efforts and celebrate the successes and creativity that Indigenous people have to offer. The more we inspire each other, the more we will thrive.

Text and photo: Shirley Charles