Powwows return to FNU campus

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Spectators surround a white tent as two teepees sit in behind them. Gillian Massie

Your typical powwow, but with a few pre-historic creatures roaming between the tipis 

The University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) has officially launched its Indigenous Sovereignty Committee, which aims to do meaningful and impactful work towards decolonization and reconciliation at the University of Regina. According to official URSU communications, the goal of the committee is to “create spaces for both Indigenous students and settler allies to organize events, campaigns and discussions around how we can make the University of Regina more accessible and respectful to the needs of Indigenous students, staff, and faculty.”  

Some of the work that has been done so far includes helping to support the Late Tony Cote Welcome Back Powwow on October 1, and updating URSU’s official land acknowledgement. The revised land acknowledgement, primarily written by Bren Henderson, states that URSU “would also like to acknowledge that true justice and reconciliation will only be achieved when these lands are liberated from white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism.”  

“In addition, our commitment to the aforementioned Nations includes fighting for the Federal government to uphold their treaty obligations of properly, and fully funding access to post secondary education for all Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island,” reads the acknowledgement.  

Mohammad Ali Aumeer, the head of URSU’s Advocacy Department and primary organizer of the committee, believes that this is part of a series of long-overdue changes and actions that URSU and the University of Regina campus must be committed to in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation.  

“After the tragedies at James Smith, we launched a workshop on how settler allies can better support Indigenous students. Coming out of that discussion we formed the Indigenous Sovereignty Committee.” Aumeer said that when he first joined URSU, he was shocked by the amount of people that were unfamiliar with Indigenous issues, with some students and staff not even knowing the location of First Nations University. Olufemi Oluyemi, an international student from Nigeria, said that he did not know anything about Indigenous people “except for what [he] saw in Hollywood movies.” After moving here and attending a powwow at First Nations University, he said he was instantly captivated.  

“I wanted to start crying because it is so similar to traditions in Nigeria, it’s like I am back home. I see them dancing and celebrating, and I want to learn more and be involved.”  

Aumeer hopes that the committee and its work will increase awareness on Indigenous issues throughout the University of Regina, with a particular area of focus being engaging and educating international students that were previously unfamiliar with these subjects. “We want to bring in as many groups and individuals on campus to work together as we can,” said Aumeer. “One of our primary goals is to bring together students from the U of R and First Nations University, and get students from main campus to go over to FNU, spend time there, go to events.” 

One of the primary goals of the committee is to launch a series of events and workshops in January with a focus on “decolonizing our minds” with Indigenous musicians InfoRed and Drezus. InfoRed, a former President of the First Nations University of Canada Students’ Association, additionally serves as a member of the committee and is one of its key event organizers.  

The Indigenous Sovereignty Committee, whose membership includes representatives from organizations such as First Nations University of Canada Students’Association, ta-tawâw Student Centre, and Regina Public Interest Research Group, is open to all students that are interested in getting involved with or learning about Indigenous issues. As the committee continues to grow, the goals and promises laid out by the team will be eagerly awaited by the on-campus community. 

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