Darian Lonechild stands in the Gordon Oakes Centre at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC) Ntawnis Piapot is one of two recipients of the 2018 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowships , established to encourage Indigenous voices and better understanding of Indigenous issues in Canada’s major media and community outlets.
Darian Lonechild, a student at the University of Saskatchewan, says she first joined the Facebook group "USask Confessions" simply for entertainment purposes.
The USask Confessions group encourages people to: "Private message us your most heartfelt, disgusting, hilarious, filthy, embarrassing confessions! It will be posted ANONYMOUSLY on this page."
Some posts are humorous, some profess their secret admiration for others. However, Lonechild said certain posts that take aim at Indigenous people are "appalling." "You really question if true critical thought is flourishing and is the university really doing its job," she said.
Lonechild, a provincially elected youth representative for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations — and nationally as the female youth representative of the Assembly of First Nations — said social media posts like this shouldn’t be taken lightly. "When stereotypes and racist confessions are made… It really can make a student feel unsafe in an environment where they’re supposed to learn and feel safe," said Lonechild.
Jacqueline Ottmann, the University of Saskatchewan’s Provost of Indigenous Education, said the USask Confessions page is not connected to the university and the vice-provost of teaching and learning has been exploring what can be done to challenge the website when it comes to racist posts.
The University of Saskatchewan recently unveiled a new strategic plan that outlines its goals for the next seven years and its aim to make the university a leader in Indigenization.
Indigenization is a term universities have adopted to describe efforts to include Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing at their institutions.
"Indigenization is not a separate commitment on its own," said University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff.
"It runs through every commitment that we have, and that’s the university of the future." Tensions in the classroom
Erica Violet Lee, a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, sat on many Indigenization committees during her time at the U of S. Lee was also a teacher’s assistant for a mandatory Indigenous Studies course. Erica Violet Lee is a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. (Erica Violet Lee/Facebook ) Lee said at times non-Indigenous students would roll their eyes or not take her seriously when she would be at the front of the classroom but she said she kept her message the same for each of her students: "You need to understand colonialism to properly serve Indigenous communities."
"I realized this classroom may be the only interaction that they may have with someone Indigenous before they go and have an impact on our community members’ lives as social workers, as teachers, as health care workers, health care providers," she told CBC.
Students at the University of Saskatchewan say there was tension after the Gerald Stanley verdict earlier this year.
In response, Lee said they held events to help students talk about the Stanley verdict and how it affected them in order to make students feel safe. That’s something that’s key to Indigenizing the campus, said Ottmann.
"These things are happening in our province and of course we have to talk about them in class. We don’t leave genocide at the door when we walk into a classroom," Lee said.
"So those tensions — whether they’re talked about or not — are always in [Saskatchewan] classrooms." Leigh Thomas at the University of Saskatchewan. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC) Leigh Thomas is a U of S student who identifies as a two-spirit, genderqueer man whose first […]
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