By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer
During their annual general meeting on November 23, 2021, the former First Nations Student Association officially changed their name to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Student Association (FNMISA).
In the same meeting, updates and changes were made to the association’s constitution, which hadn’t been done since the 90s. FNMISA acting chair Audrey Heath (Gitxsan) said the association had been thinking about the name change for a long time.
“We are here to support First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students, but our name didn’t reflect that. This was confusing for some people,” said Heath. “We would often come across Métis students, and tell them they should drop by, and the response was ‘Oh I didn’t know I could, I thought it was only for First Nations students,’ but this was and is not the case.”
Heath explained the association considered various options for the new name such as Indigenous Student Association before settling on FNMISA to be specific and inclusive to their membership. These considerations ensure all of their community members know the association’s services are available to them.
“This name change is an important part [of] building community relations and creating an inclusive environment,” said Heath. “The name, First Nations Student Association, was not inclusive of all membership. Métis and Inuit students either did not know our supports were available to them, or the ones who were involved felt excluded.”
The FNMISA Board has been transitioning back to being in-person and opening up their new space within the Student Union Building. Heath shared some of the activities and community-building supports the FNMISA offers.
“This is a safe space available for students to study, socialize, participate in cultural activities, and more!” said Heath. FNMISA offers activities such as board games and a end of term dinner for its members to connect with each other.
The association recently increased their capacity through hiring an FNMISA coordinator. FNMISA will also receive more funding through an increase in their student levy. This levy increase was passed in last month’s SFSS referendum. Heath said this gives them an opportunity to expand on their support and services. She emphasized FNMISA is open to hearing what Indigenous students seeking support want to see from the association and encouraged them to reach out.
According to Heath, FNMISA is working with SFSS and the Indigenous Student Centre to host a pow wow at SFU. She said it’s been difficult to facilitate cultural community engagement through the pandemic and she hopes the pow wow will bring the Indigenous community within and beyond SFU together again.
“This event will allow for a celebration of culture and represent the resurgence of Indigenous Peoples. In this multi-day event, we will have the chance to witness Indigenous dancers and drummers, eat traditional foods, such as bannock, and purchase artwork from talented community members,” said Heath.