The first ever SFU Indigenous Day was held on Thursday, September 25 in Convocation Mall at Burnaby campus.
The day of events was put on by the First Nations Student Association (FNSA), an organization dedicated to representing the interests of all self-identified Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, along with both status and non-status SFU students.
Laura Forsythe, FNSA treasurer, explained, “This is [the FNSA’s] first attempt to create an event around educating versus showcasing. All of the elements have a large educational component to them. We hope to communicate Indigenous diversity here on Turtle Island [in North America] through a combination of sound, sight, and taste.”
Students walking by Convocation Mall were drawn into the vibrant event, which featured several performers on the convocation stage, informational booths about SFU’s Indigenous programs and initiatives, as well as a myriad of Indigenous artists who showcased and sold their handcrafted wares.
Those in attendance were entertained with lively music and dance as well as Indigenous artists’ work, which ranged from fine jewelry to moccasins and dream catchers.
Sharing circles, hosted by Indigenous elders, were one of the most unique opportunities at the event, meant to foster engaging and powerful community dialogue.
Several booths were set up to inform and educate SFU students about Indigenous culture as well as to shed some light on the ongoing projects in SFU’s Indigenous community. One such initiative is Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (iPinCH), an international research initiative that, according to their mandate, “explores the rights, values, and responsibilities of material culture, cultural knowledge, and the practice of heritage research.”
Based out of the anthropology program at SFU, iPinCH tackles issues such as cultural appropriation, commodification, and how the flows of knowledge about history can affect communities today.
Those who work at the SFU Indigenous Centre, which opened in its brand new location on the second floor of the AQ earlier this month, were also present to inform people about their services as a study lounge and a source of support for self-identified Indigenous students. Their workshops and tutoring services will now be offered at their brand new location on the second floor of the AQ.
Mike Vegh, an FNSA board member and member of the Heiltsuk Nation, spoke to the day’s success: “The benefits for SFU students are tremendous, but overall they get to experience First Nations culture and combat colonialism in a way that is very exciting and interactive.”
He continued, “Promoting Indigenous culture is key in order to revitalize the Indigenous people in Canada, who in the past — and still today — have suffered tremendously from colonialism. With events like this, it shows that Indigenous culture and people have the strength and determination to be a voice that still wants to be heard.”