As the University prepares to recognize National Indigenous History Month, we mourn for the 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. It is an exceptionally challenging time for the Indigenous communities at U of T and a vivid reminder of the not-so-distant history of harms and atrocities that we are only beginning to work toward acknowledging and reconciling.
The University of Toronto joins communities across Turtle Island and around the world in mourning the loss of these children, their stories, and their contributions to Indigenous communities in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory and beyond. These systemic atrocities committed against generations of Indigenous peoples reinforce the urgency of taking further steps to address the inter-generational effects of colonialism that continue to impact Indigenous communities.
The University of Toronto remains committed to the reconciliation process, in which trust, relationship-building, and meaningful consultation are essential. Guiding our work is Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin, the Final Report of the University’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Steering Committee. As a direct response to the University’s Calls to Action #33 and #34, the Office of Indigenous Initiatives publishes an annual progress report that documents the University and its divisions’ progress in implementing the calls to action across all three campuses. It is time to reflect and continue to learn.
Dismantling systemic discrimination and racism against Indigenous communities requires each of us to act. I encourage every faculty, librarian, and staff member at the University to register for our institutional Indigenous Cultural Competency Training series, which includes sessions such as: Speaking Our Truths: The journey Towards Reconciliation (Part 1 and Part 2); Reconciliation: Walking the Path of Indigenous Allyship; and Reflecting on Land Acknowledgements. Employees can register for this training through the Centre for Learning, Leadership, and Culture (LLC). Students can register for all the training through the Career Learning Network (CLNX).
National Indigenous History Month provides U of T’s diverse community with an opportunity to acknowledge hard historical truths as we move towards change. In the coming weeks, the Division of HR & Equity will share information on how our entire community can participate in events to recognize National Indigenous History Month. Although we are taking steps towards reconciliation, we realize that much more work is required.
Resources & Support
Resources are available to Indigenous members of our community who need additional support. This week, the Office of Indigenous Initiatives will be hosting a Sharing Circle where Indigenous staff, faculty, and librarians can come together to share, reflect, and restore. Details will be emailed directly to Indigenous community members. A list of other supports and programming for staff, faculty, and librarians will be available shortly on the Office of Indigenous Initiatives website. The Indigenous Student Services at First Nations House are making additional resources and support available for our Indigenous students. Anishnaabe knowledge keeper and healer James Carpenter will be facilitating Sharing Circles for Indigenous students this Tuesday, June 1, and Wednesday, June 2 from 4 pm to 5 pm via Zoom. Indigenous U of T Students can register for the Sharing Circle on the CLNX website.
For those who are struggling and who need support, I encourage you to contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, Indigenous Student Services at First Nations House, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Offices at UTSC and UTM so we can help connect you with the appropriate resources. Employees have 24/7 access to counselling and other mental health support via our Employee & Family Assistance Program. Students can access supports through Indigenous Student Services and My SSP.
To offer support, you could consider donating to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS). The IRSSS is a British Columbia-based organization that strives to provide physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth, development, and healing for residential school survivors, families, and communities. You may also consider donating to U of T’s Indigenous Student Services at First Nations House to support our students.