The new course is the first phase of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute’s Prison Education Project

The Silhouette sat down with Savage Bear, Director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute, to discuss her new course set to start in January 2023 taught at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.  

The new course is part of the Walls to Bridges National Program where Bear sits as co-director. The program aims to implement post-secondary education in prisons and jails nationwide, offering classes that both incarcerated and non-incarcerated students can attend. The program values dismantling stigmas and creating collaborative spaces for incarcerated students.  

“There are a lot of stereotypes, and we carry misconceptions about what happens in a prison and  what incarcerated folks are like. At the same time, incarcerated folks also have ideas about university and the students who attend. So we bring these two groups together to break down those boundaries,” said Bear. 

“There are a lot of stereotypes, and we carry misconceptions  about what happens in a prison and  what incarcerated folks are like. At the same time,  incarcerated folks also have ideas about university and the students who attend. So we bring these two groups together to break down those boundaries,”

Savage Bear, Director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute

Working with the Edmonton Institution for Women, Bear and her team implemented the Walls to Bridges program during her time as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Native Studies and Department of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Alberta. She made continuing her work of implementing post-secondary education in prisons a priority when appointed as the director of McMaster’s Indigenous Research Institute in July 2021.  

“You have 10 students from the university and 10 students in the [prison]. We hold a classroom in the prison, it’s a three-credit course like a regular semester. It's a normal university course in every other way, except it's in a prison and half your classmates are incarcerated folks,” said Bear. 

“You have 10 students from the university and 10 students in the [prison]. We hold a classroom in the prison, it’s a three-credit course like a regular semester. It's a normal university course in every other way, except it's in a prison and half your classmates are incarcerated folks,”

Savage Bear, Director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute

Bear described the course as covering historical Indigenous tragedies and how communities preserved their cultures and traditions. 

“We are looking at Indigenous peoples who have resisted and subverted colonial policies, and legislation like the Indian Act — all those types of oppressive structures that pushed back against them historically... We have to recognize that Indigenous people were never passive participants in these colonial structures. They fought back in brilliant and courageous ways,” said Bear. 

Bear and co-facilitator, Sara Howdle will facilitate the course with group discussions and group projects between incarcerated and non-incarcerated students. She characterized incarcerated students that register for courses as eager with an appetite to learn. 

“I've rarely come across a university class where all the students do all the readings all the time. My incarcerated students have an incredible thirst for knowledge. They make notes of what they liked and didn't like about the articles.  Hands down they're some of the most critical thinkers I've ever come across in my entire teaching career. It is such a pleasure to have such engaged and thoughtful minds in the class,” said Bear. 

The Walls to Bridges Program is the first of a three-tier plan for the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute’s Prison Education Project. The second tier involves support for post-incarceration students living in transition houses to attend courses on campus for either a credit or an audit. Tier three is a mentorship program that provides supports to formerly incarcerated people to apply for university. Bear described the project as a pipeline for incarcerated people, from prison to transition housing to post-secondary education. 

Bear highlighted the value of this unique course setting and structure as life-changing for university students. 

“It is a life-changing course. It is something you rarely come across in your life. Walls to Bridges has been like that for students since its inception 11 years ago. If you want a dynamic course that's going to challenge you, make you uncomfortable, but be incredibly rewarding, then this is the course for you,” said Bear. 

Applications for McMaster students to register for the class are due Nov 15th. 

The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself.  

Robert Innes: My name is Rob Innes. I'm a member of Cowessess First Nation located in Treaty Four territory. I am currently the Chair of the Indigenous Studies Department and I'm an associate professor.  

Was there anything you had to adjust to when moving from one university to another? 

I'm from Saskatchewan and there's a different dynamic in terms of Indigenous people. Indigenous people have a much bigger presence at the University of Saskatchewan. Here in Hamilton and the [Greater Toronto Area], in general, Indigenous people are erased and may be an afterthought. At McMaster [University], there are fewer Indigenous professors than at the University of Saskatchewan. People reach out to Indigenous faculty, to our department, for all kinds of requests. It is a little bit more pressure but at the same time, we're the Indigenous Studies Department. This is part of what we do. We educate and provide skills for students to better the sense of Indigenous community. For the faculty itself, however, it is extra labour and it often happens at a very early time in their career. Junior faculty usually get some time to develop their research and get their horses up and running before they have to do more administrative work. Indigenous faculty get burdened with administrative work right from the get-go. First-year tenure track faculty are already asked to do a lot more administrative work than the average faculty at the university. For McMaster's new Indigenous Studies Department, I tell people that we got this brand new kitchen, we got nice new cupboards, but the cupboards are empty. What we're doing this year is stocking those cupboards. It's an opportunity to build on the foundation of what's being done here and set an exciting direction for Indigenous Studies on campus. 

For McMaster's new Indigenous Studies Department, I tell people that we got this brand new kitchen, we got nice new cupboards, but the cupboards are empty. What we're doing this year is stocking those cupboards. It's an opportunity to build on the foundation of what's being done here and set an exciting direction for Indigenous Studies on campus.

Dr. Robert Innes, Chair of the Indigenous Studies Department

How do you see this department and its growth benefiting students? 

The department has 11 faculty, all Indigenous, and currently, there is no other department in Indigenous Studies in Canada with that many Indigenous faculty—that in itself is sending a message to Indigenous students in the region that this is something they can pursue here. There's a lot of opportunity here. Even for non-Indigenous students, they can benefit from taking courses in Indigenous Studies. Many of our faculty are cross-listed in different departments so students can still take classes with an Indigenous focus. So, we're also looking at working collaboratively with other departments for courses and looking at ways that we can tap into students in other departments. It's a precedent that definitely leads an example for other institutions across Ontario. It's so necessary and we're just really excited to see those cross-faculty linkages. One other thing is we've talked to a number of the faculty at Laurier, Guelph and other institutions and the ideas are germinating. In particular, we've been in discussions with folks at Mohawk College talking about collaborations too. We'll be looking at working with different nations to create pathways for Indigenous students to come to McMaster. 

What’s next for the department? 

We are really looking at solidifying our undergraduate program. We have some really dynamic instructors in our department and they do amazing things in research and in their teaching. We're pushing for more land-based spiritual learning, service-learning kinds of lab classes, courses that take students outside of the classroom. We want to push students to get on the land and work with communities.

We're pushing for more land-based spiritual learning, service-learning kinds of lab classes, courses that take students outside of the classroom. We want to push students to get on the land and work with communities.

DR. ROBERT INNES, CHAIR OF THE INDIGENOUS STUDIES DEPARTMENT

Something about Indigenous Studies has been, since its inception, pushing students to become critical thinkers, to go beyond critiquing policies and to then have skills that are useful to community. We want them to be conscious [and] not just about: 'Okay, how do I get a job?' Yes, we all want jobs, but how are you going to give back to the community? No matter what students pursue, we want to impart skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, coming up with new ideas and being creative in ways that will benefit communities. We want students to bring together the applied and the theoretical. It's not good enough to critique and tear something down, we have to think: 'What's an alternative? How do we solve this?' 

We want students to bring together the applied and the theoretical. It's not good enough to critique and tear something down, we have to think: 'What's an alternative? How do we solve this?'

DR. ROBERT INNES, CHAIR OF THE INDIGENOUS STUDIES DEPARTMENT

C/O Kevin Patrick Robbins

McMaster’s Indigenous studies courses offer historical and contemporary insight into Indigenous affairs

Founded in 1992, the Indigenous studies program at McMaster University offers a variety of courses related to Indigenous affairs. The program website discusses their unique approach to teaching, which emphasizes the importance of community knowledge.

“This community-driven approach encourages students from various cultural backgrounds to learn about the history and lives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples from an Indigenous perspective,” the website stated.

Adrienne Xavier, Director of the Indigenous studies program, discussed the method of teaching that the program uses and how important it is for developing an understanding of Indigenous affairs.

“Ultimately, it's not any one particular class for me. It's the approach that our faculty have, which is giving [students] unique perspectives and ideas around what is truly possible and what Indigenous ways of knowing look like,” said Xavier.

According to Xavier, all of the classes are taught with this community-focused approach in mind, and they all provide valuable learning experiences. However, Xavier highlighted a few specific courses that are especially significant.

One of the courses that Xavier highlighted was INDIG ST 1AA3, introduction to contemporary Indigenous studies.

The course description states that students will explore the relationship between Indigenous peoples and mainstream society in the 20th century. Specifically, the course will examine governmental policy, land claims, economic development and self-determination.

Xavier noted that this course is valuable for giving students foundational knowledge about Indigenous affairs and introducing them to the conversation.

“It's really about understanding that there are a lot of different ways for students to engage in the knowledge of what's going on with Indigenous communities today,” said Xavier. 

Xavier further emphasized the importance of students educating themselves regarding Indigenous history and issues.  

“I think that everybody should have some base of knowledge on Indigenous issues, Indigenous history [and] Indigenous contemporary concerns,” explained Xavier.

Xavier said that, although no program is perfect, she believes the Indigenous studies program has been effective at reaching students and helping them to better understand Indigenous history and contemporary affairs.

“No school has it done perfectly right. No instructor does everything exactly the way that every student needs. Every student learns a little differently [and] every instructor teaches a little differently,” said Xavier.

However, Xavier said the Indigenous studies program has been able to connect students to the faculty, to each other and to the content. Xavier expressed hope that even more students will seek out Indigenous studies courses in the future.

“I will urge students to always be looking at Indigenous studies for different new courses [and] for what's being offered each year because we don't always have the faculty to offer everything every year,” Xavier said.

As settlers on Indigenous lands, it is crucial that students acknowledge their use of the land and educate themselves regarding Indigenous culture. At McMaster, taking an Indigenous studies course is one way to do so.  

C/O Creeson Agecoutay, CTV News

It's time to recognize what we've done and stop celebrating genocide

cw: indigenous inequalities, genocide, residential schools

The Silhouette encourages both the McMaster University and Hamilton communities not to partake in Canada Day celebrations. Take the time to reflect on not only the recent news about the countless graves found at residential schools across the country, but also the inequalities that Indigenous peoples face each and every day.

"McMaster University stands on land protected by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum agreement. Wampum belts are beads bound onto strings which narrate Haudenosaunee history, tradition and laws. The “Dish With One Spoon” wampum was created to bind the nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to the Great Law of Peace. The “Dish” represents the shared land, while “One Spoon” reinforces the idea of sharing and peace."

This is the land acknowledgement said at the start of every McMaster function. While this is a start, this is not enough on the path to reconciliation or the path to trust.

There is no pride in genocide and we will not stand by and continue to watch these inequalities surface. While we made a commitment last year to continue our work to uplift BIPOC voices, we have noticed that our articles lack Indigenous voices. The Silhouette is a platform for students to share their voice to other students and the McMaster/Hamilton communities. If we do not represent all students, we are not meeting our mandate nor our goal.

There is no pride in genocide and we will not stand by and continue to watch these inequalities surface.

ANDREW MROZOWSKI, VOLUME 92 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE SILHOUETTE


As part of Volume 92, we want to ensure we are providing space for Indigenous students and faculty members to share their input on issues, to share their stance on university affairs, but most importantly, to share their stories. This will not be exclusive to Volume 92 and will be a commitment renewed every year with each Editor-in-Chief, masthead staff member and volunteer contributor. With this commitment, we will also creating our first Indigenous stories special issue this year. This will become an annual celebration of Indigenous stories, a critical lens of Indigenous issues, a place to showcase artwork and most importantly — to shed light on the voices that comprise a large part of our community.

We recognize that not all students reside in the Hamilton area. To find out whose land you currently occupy, go to https://www.whose.land/en/.

We also understand that many conversations currently being had within non-Indigenous communities have the potential to be traumatic. A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-441.

The Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster has many resources for Indigenous students including an Indigenous Student Success Advisor, Writing workshops and various Elder talks: https://indigservices.mcmaster.ca/

Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By: Evan Jamieson-Eckel, Contributor

On Nov. 8, 2019, Indigenous women took to Twitter to call out Ainsley Whynacht. Whynacht applied for an Indigenous Student scholarship through the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and received one of the six awards worth $1,500. Her paper, which was required to apply for the scholarship, discussed the negative conditions experienced by people living on reservations. Here’s the catch: Whynacht is not Indigenous (and, no, claiming fake Indigenous identity doesn’t count).

From the scholarship committee who gave an indigenous scholarship to a white girl who gleefully posted her deception on social media: we’re letting her keep the award, and shame on you ndns for being mean to her. https://t.co/Tx3bGGWuoR

— tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ (@zhaabowekwe) November 11, 2019

The issue here is theft of opportunity for Indigenous Peoples that may otherwise allow us to reclaim our voices. If we look at this issue on a broader level, it is more common than you might realize. In this era of reconciliation that we are currently in, it has become acceptable for mainstream society to consume anything Indigenous without reciprocation or even a basic awareness of the consequences of consumption. This non-reciprocal consumption occurs here at McMaster University, where settlers can major or minor in Indigenous studies.

You read that right: our university provides the means for settlers to establish a career in dominating Indigenous voices.

This is a core issue with reconciliation-driven initiatives. Instead of creating opportunities for Indigenous People to reclaim our voices, make a living and rebuild Indigenous Nationhood, mainstream Canadian society maintains the oppression of Indigenous Peoples by supporting the creation of settler “Indian experts”. Settlers like William Fenton, an anthropologist who rewrote Haudenosaunee history as he saw fit throughout the mid 1900’s, have dominated Indigenous knowledge and its reproduction for centuries. Twisting the truth of our Nations and cultures to better suit settler needs and wants has always taken priority over undoing the destruction caused by settler colonialism. Institutions like McMaster University allow settlers to continue to have our cake and eat it too, in 2019 and beyond.

Now using reconciliation as their excuse, settlers are all too eager to find the next way to benefit from Indigenous experience. With most of our land base taken from us, the knowledge we’ve protected as Indigenous Peoples is more valuable than ever. While Whynact’s theft of $1,500 is wrong, it is also a drop in the bucket compared to the wealth that settler graduates in Indigenous studies will generate at our expense in the future. There are various lucrative jobs that having a degree in Indigenous studies will allow you to be considered for, including in education and politics. As of right now, the average annual salary for these kinds of jobs is around $94,743. Having a minor or major in Indigenous Studies acts as a resume buffer when reconciliation is positively regarded in hiring processes. These institutional preferences may prevent employers from addressing discrimination in their hiring practices, as credentials such as a university degree will outweigh actual Indigenous experience. This is a major problem since many Indigenous Peoples do not have the ability to attend university to obtain a degree in something that is clearly for us, yet it is all available on a silver platter to be consumed by those who can afford to enroll in the Indigenous studies program.

The issue goes deeper on the local level. Even before settler students at McMaster University graduate from the program, they are also able to obtain employment as teaching assistants in Indigenous studies classes. I took this issue to CUPE 3906, who are now bargaining to give preference to Indigenous applicants in the TA hiring process. This is common practice in other Indigenous-focused organizations and programs. Beyond obtaining a degree in Indigenous studies, employers will also be looking for graduates with experience. By allowing settler students to be TAs in Indigenous studies courses, it sets them up for further success and profit when they enter the job market as settler graduates will have the added experience of being a TA. Worse still, the dynamic of settlers marking Indigenous knowledge is problematic in its own right. Considering how unemployment is often referenced in anti-Indigenous racism through laziness or lack of intelligence, it is a wonder that settlers will also take away employment opportunities that are best suited by Indigenous peoples ourselves. 

To be clear, settlers that take advantage of opportunities that are meant for Indigenous people are not helping us. The impact of their actions will always outweigh their intent. If they were committed to real reconciliation, settlers would learn how to not take up space and know when it is time to stay in their own lane for once in the history of Indigenous/settler relations. They would only take Indigenous studies courses to supplement their learning, not as a minor or a major that allows them to establish authority over the subject. They would support Indigenous peoples in their efforts to rebuild their Nations. They would not be looking for the next way to make a buck at our expense. They would take the time to educate themselves about the settler-colonial foundation of Canada, understand their complicity in it and seek out Indigenous written resources for how to commit to genuine reconciliation. 

 

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McMaster’s Indigenous Studies Program recently announced a new course, titled “RECONCIL 1A03: Reconciling What? Indigenous Relations in Canada”.

The three unit course, which is open to all members of the McMaster community, will be available in Winter 2019 and will examine the sociopolitical and historical relations between Indigenous peoples and Canada in a post-1951 time period. The course will also explore how colonialism, assimilation and resistance movements are situated in an era of reconciliation. 

RECONCIL 1A03 can also be selected as a Personal Interest Course, providing an opportunity for students to explore topics which may be new and unfamiliar.

Vanessa Watts, the Academic Director of McMaster’s Indigenous Studies program says that this course aims to offer a thorough look into what reconciliation means within the Canadian context.  

“What we’re seeing in Canadian politics and Indigenous politics is how this word is really landing within communities, within universities and within the business sector,” said Watts. “We’re seeing how it’s circulating and so with this course were trying to unpack that notion of reconciliation given certain historical and contemporary contexts of indigenous people within Canada.”

In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was established to facilitate truth telling and to foster reconciliation in Canada, given the legacy of the Indian Residential School system. An objective of the TRC was to increase public awareness surrounding the Indian Residential School system and its impacts. 

McMaster University sits on the traditional territories of the Mississauga and Haudenosaunee nations and within the lands protected by the Dish With One Spoon wampum agreement. Within these lands stands the Mohawk Institute, the first, and longest-running residential school in Canada, located nearly 30 minutes from our campus.

The Commission also recommended that Indigenous content be offered at a postsecondary level across multiple disciplines to maintain a momentum of reconciliation into the future. In 2017, Canada announced ten principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. 

These principles represent interests including land, treaties, self-government, rights, resources, and economic development, among others. Indigenous peoples have also identified similar areas of interest and highlight areas such as the need for language revitalization, the need to address systemic inequities and the importance of traditional governance systems. 

“Just as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on Canada and Canadians to witness the impact of the Indian Residential Schools and to be active participants in what reconciliation can look like, my hope is that students at McMaster are excited for the same opportunity,” said Watts. 

“It is shared legacy and a shared journey between Indigenous and non Indigenous peoples within Canada and I hope that these students are excited to learn more about reconciliation.”

The Indigenous Studies program is celebrating its 25th year at McMaster Uniersity this year. As such, this course is to offer a contextualized idea of reconciliation as it relates to academia and community, according to Watts.  

“It’s important that we think about reconciliation within the program from an academic outlook,” said Watts. “We also look at it from a community based outlook and those are the two kind of themes that run through all of our courses within Indigenous Studies.” 

The McMaster Campus Store came under criticism this week for controversial choices in costumes available for sale. The store offered Halloween costumes for the first time this year as part of its expanded merchandise.

But not all the costumes went over well with McMaster students.

The selection of costumes available included racially offensive offerings such as “Sexy Indian Princess” and “Eskimo Cutie,” both designed for women.

Photos of the costumes were published in executive editor Jemma Wolfe’s editorial on The Silhouette’s website on Oct. 25, in response to the offerings in the Campus Store and cultural appropriation during Halloween. The images were circulated online, bringing the attention to the wider McMaster community—and provoking a major outcry.

Donna Shapiro, Director of the Campus Store, explained that the organization had not anticipated such a response.

“We didn’t really even suspect this angle as we started down this road,” Shapiro said. “I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a party store to look at what costumes are available.”

Upon hearing of the available costumes, fourth-year Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour student Alan Rheaume started a petition asking that the Campus Store immediately remove the costumes, calling them “obscene and offensive towards Indigenous students at McMaster and aborad [sic]” and arguing that they violated the MSU’s Anti-Oppression Policy.

“I started the petition…so we could end this offensive business practice that has no place in an institution of higher education,” said Rheaume, who is a member of the McMaster First Nations Students Association.

“My goal was not only to get the costumes removed from the bookstore, but also to spread awareness about the widespread cultural appropriation inherent in Halloween celebrations.”

Rheaume’s petition, started on change.com, was established hours after the photos surfaced on Friday, Oct. 25. He was seeking 500 signatures; by the time it closed later in the weekend, 543 people had signed.

The Campus Store pulled the racist costumes less than 24 hours after complaints were made, removing them from sale before the store opened on Saturday.

Even through the controversy of the selections, observers praised the store’s swift response.

“I was happy on that front…for the [Campus Store] listening and being willing to respond like that,” said MSU President David Campbell of the quick remedy.

While the removal of the costumes was a welcome response, the problems associated with the sale of the costumes still resonated in the Mac community.

“Inappropriate Halloween costumes are not specific to McMaster, however we are concerned when such costumes appear within our own campus community,” wrote the McMaster Indigenous Studies Program and Indigenous Services in a comment to The Silhouette.

“[This] has been an embarrassment to the entire McMaster community, and hopefully these events can spark a dialogue on critical thought and informed decision making.”

The release referred to a third costume that was also deemed offensive for its endorsement of rape culture. In addition to the racially insensitive costumes, the Campus Store sold a football-themed costume marketed to women with lettering on the shirt saying, “tackle me.”

“The issue of costumes at the McMaster Campus Store extends beyond the problematic representations of Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous women specifically, as there were other costumes that were also offensive to other groups that condoned rape culture.”

The costume in question was pulled in the afternoon on Oct. 26, shortly after the original two were removed from sale.

The store had pursued Halloween costumes as a way to boost sales in October.

“Things slow down in the course materials area [in October], so we have some transitional space,” explained Shapiro. “Halloween was just a good fit because it happened to fit the timeline.”

The idea to stock costumes came from Deidre Henne, McMaster’s Chief Financial Officer and Associate Vice-President (Administration), who worked with the Campus Store to help boost revenue. The store has faced declining profits in recent years from decreased textbook sales, seeing a drop of 10 to 20 per cent per year, but is still mandated to contribute its profits, usually roughly $1 million, to the Student Affairs and University Operating budgets.

“They would not have sold costumes…had I not suggested it,” said Henne, who described the decision to stock them as “an innocent one.”

As proposed by Henne, the Campus Store sought a partnership with Party City, a New Jersey-based retailer. The company traditionally establishes a bunch of “pop-up” stores across North America seasonally for events like Halloween, but used their deal with Mac as an opportunity to pilot selling stock in a campus setting.

Party City rented the space from the Campus Store, and stocked the same selection of costumes that is available in their regular locations.

“There was nothing in front of that for vetting their costumes,” said Shapiro.

Considering the reaction, Henne concluded, “on-campus screening is probably necessary.”

“Hindsight is 20/20,” she said. “I think by bringing [these costumes] onto campus, it put a different lens onto it. I think in fairness it’s a good lens to put on it, it’s just about what appropriate actions the Campus Store should take when those things are arranged.”

It remains to be seen whether the Campus Store will continue to sell costumes in future years.

 

With its close proximity to the Six Nations of Grand River, Canada’s largest population of First Nations, and an independent ISP with a sizeable number of First Nations students, McMaster should be considered an accessible campus for Aboriginal students.

But is our student population aware of the issues that Aboriginal students experience in accessing their education?

At the Feb. 6 SRA meeting, Huzaifa Saeed, MSU VP (Education), introduced a new position paper that the MSU has drafted on Aboriginal Students. The paper proposed a set of 12 recommendations that primarily urged the provincial and federal governments to increase their funding allocation and remove the barriers to education that indigenous students face.

Saeed prepared the position paper in consultation with the Indigenous Studies Program and using data from focus groups held through OUSA, the MSU’s provincial lobbying body.

“In the MSU, there is a tendency to forget about groups within the larger student body. And according to OUSA and CASA, certain underrepresented groups, such as Aboriginal Students, need to have their issues better addressed.”

In light of the recent Idle No More rallies, Saeed felt that the educational challenges facing indigenous students have been relatively underrepresented in the mainstream media.

The paper also emphasized how, historically, educational institutions have not acknowledged the legitimacy of Indigenous knowledge and systemically discriminated and alienated Aboriginal students. Another recommendation proposed providing more resources to Aboriginal student services to help to improve student transition and experience.

The paper outlines how federal funding, through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, has been capped at an annual two per cent increase since 1996.

Jennie Anderson, Aboriginal Recruitment and Retention Officer at McMaster, described how the federal cap on funding presented a problem for Aboriginal students because it does not accurately reflect the growing Aboriginal youth population, and it is not set to inflation.

Federal funding is distributed to Aboriginal students from their band councils in their respective communities. However, because the funding comes from a set amount, Aboriginal students will experience increasing difficulty accessing funds for post-secondary studies.

“Communities face tough decisions in priority sequencing. While we already work with students to find alternate means of funding, this will only increase [as funds continue to dwindle relative to the population],” said Anderson.

Brandon Meawasige, a third-year Communications and Indigenous Studies student of Ojibway, heritage explained how in his first year he studied at Laurier Brantford, he struggled to complete all the necessary paperwork because the university process was overly complex.

“At Mac, I filled out one form, sent it in and it was processed right away by Student Accounts and Cashiers. I didn’t need to qualify how I was Aboriginal or have a back-and-forth conversation with my band council to prove my status, like I had to at Laurier.”

The Indigenous Studies Program is currently housed in the basement of Hamilton Hall, but unlike other programs, its student services is just another part of their program but does not have separate employees or independent funding.

The program will soon be receiving an enhanced office space in the new Wilson Building, and program staff have been enthusiastic to promote the introduction of a full four-year Bachelors in Indigenous Studies.

Tara Campbell, Program Administrator, remarked upon the positive impact of the new MSU position paper.

“It was the first time in a few years that we were approached by the MSU, and I was pleasantly surprised by the knowledge [of Indigenous issues] that came up. This is a mutually beneficial relationship, and we hope for more allies like the MSU so it isn’t always just us knocking on doors.”

Saeed also re-iterated the importance of strengthening the relationship between the MSU and Aboriginal students and creating more awareness among the student body of educational disparities.

“The MSU should have a repository on all significant PSE issues to build for future years to detail our stance. I hope my successor will vote for CASA to continue lobbying on behalf of Aboriginal issues.”

A group of more than 30 students, professors and community members gathered on campus this morning to raise awareness for the Idle No More campaign. The rally was organized in solidarity with community action in 25 cities across Canada opposing Prime Minister Harper's leadership on various issues.

The rally at McMaster, organized by members of the McMaster First Nations Students Association (MFNSA) and the Indigenous Studies Program, began at the Cootes Drive parking lot. Participants carried signs with messages including "Stop Carbon Emissions Before It's Too Late" and "Where is our democracy?"

The group moved toward the centre of campus and congregated outside Mills Library, where Lester Green, a speaker visiting from Six Nations, addressed the crowd about the environmental concerns and educational goals of the movement. Following Green's speech, Idle No More supporters participated in a dance-around.

Christa Jonathan, President of MFNSA, said the campus demonstration follows in the footsteps of similar campus rallies. The Indigenous Studies Program has also held teach-ins over the past two weeks in the Student Centre.

"We just want everyone to know that everyone's treaty people. The Bill [C-45] doesn't just affect aboriginal people - It affects us all," she said.

"It goes back to education," said Green, after the rally. "You have to understand the past, present and future in order to have that better future."

Some members of the campus demonstration joined the larger Idle No More Hamilton initiative downtown later in the afternoon.

As the Idle No More movement continues to gain steam across Canada, the McMaster First Nations Students Association (MFNSA) hosted its own event in solidarity with the movement, hoping to address the many questions that have sprung up in the student body.

Students, staff and faculty filled up the seats in the MUSC Atrium, leaving others to stand and listen to the panel of professors discuss issues facing the indigenous peoples in Canada. The panel included Daniel Coleman (English and Cultural Studies), Vanessa Watts (Indigenous Studies),  Jeffrey Denis (Sociology), Rick Monture (English and Cultural Studies) and Amber Dean (English and Cultural Studies).

The event was meant to share information on campus and to show solidarity with the expansive and still-growing Idle No More movement.  The issues discussed ranged from violence against First Nations women to the limited number of Indigenous Studies faculty at McMaster. The panel discussion was followed by a round dance, which students were encouraged to join.

Christa Jonathan, MFNSA President, noted that there is a multitude of views on campus, and that the event aimed to "re-educate people in appropriate ways so that they know about the current issues indigenous peoples face, and to encourage students to learn more."

To mark the National Day of Action on Jan. 28, MFNSA plans to hold a march on campus and potentially more teach-ins, as well as a flash mob round-dance.

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