Creation of Indigenous union secondary to more pressing issues: Indigenous Students’ Council

By in News

The Indigenous Students’ Council at the University of Saskatchewan held elections on April 10 and 11. The incoming president wants to continue pursuing an Indigenous students’ union but second to addressing other pressing issues impacting Indigenous students.

A total of 114 students cast ballots in the ISC election. The new council is headed by Kaitlin Bird as president, and her four vice-presidents are Gabriel Michael, Brendan Bear, Janene Bigknife and Tyler Buffalo. The arts and science representative is Heaven Adams, the Edwards School of Business representative is Heather Robinson and health sciences will be represented by Tianna Greyeyes.

Bird, a third-year political studies student, ran on a platform that promised “accountability,” “interconnecting” and advocating for an Indigenous students’ union. She spoke with the Sheaf after the council’s first meeting where they discussed their plans for the year.

These plans include creating ties between the ISC and northern reserves, renovating the Aboriginal Student Lounge and updating the council’s constitution. 

Bird also wants to strengthen their ties with Indigenous students from different U of S campuses by establishing more councillor positions.

“I [want] to bring in some councillors from other campuses,” Bird said. “Prince Albert should have a councillor so we know what’s going on with [the] Indigenous students there.”

Bird says that she will stay accountable to Indigenous students through weekly public meetings.

“I [am] going to have weekly meetings with the VPs and council, and I [am] going to have the minutes published,” Bird said. “I [want] [the meetings] to be open, so other Indigenous students could come meet, too, if they wanted.”

Bird plans on consulting other Indigenous student unions in order to get a better idea of how to form one. Bird says that overall her main focus is on supporting Indigenous students, especially those with housing and food security issues. While Bird does wish to see an Indigenous students’ union, she believes that it is secondary to these more immediate issues. 

Regan Ratt-Misponas, incoming U of S Students’ Union president and outgoing ISC president, has frequently advocated for the creation of an Indigenous students’ union. He was ISC president when the group first called for union status in March 2018.

“When we brought this up, there was a group of us that saw that there was a need for resources within our community. Also, we saw an opportunity to practice our self-determination as Indigenous people and Indigenous students,” he said.

In the past, Ratt-Misponas has put forward that Indigenous students’ USSU fees could be rerouted into an Indigenous students’ union. Despite his past support for the cause, Ratt­-Misponas says he must remain neutral in his new role as USSU president.

“Unfortunately, due to fiduciary responsibility that I have to the USSU, I must keep my involvement in the movement for an Indigenous students’ union limited,” Ratt-Misponas said. “What I can do is offer the space to have those conversations.” 

Ratt-Misponas wants to bring a new life to the USSU Indigenous Student Affairs Committee as a place where Indigenous students can collectively discuss how to move forward.

“We have an Indigenous Student Affairs Committee that, over the last year, has not been running… My desire is to kind of pick that up and to bring the conversation to that table,” Ratt-Misponas said. “This has never been a decision just for me to make. It was a collective effort of students that wanted to see a change at a time that we weren’t seeing those results being produced.”

Kienan Ashton

Photo: Sydney Lerat/ Supplied