Honouring National Indigenous Peoples Day at George Brown College

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day – a day for all Canadians to honour the heritage, diversity and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Observed on the summer solstice, it offers a chance to celebrate the cultures and voices of Indigenous peoples. At the same time, we must recognize the systemic racism, violence and institutional barriers that Indigenous peoples have faced and continue to face. 

Many members of our community are experiencing grief and anger right now, in light of the horrific discovery of the mass grave of children found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. In the spirit of reconciliation, George Brown College joins with Indigenous communities in asserting that the government must find and identify the estimated 1,600 yet unnamed Indigenous children who died in the residential school system.

June 23 Strawberry Ceremony

On June 23, the Indigenous Education and Services team will host a virtual Strawberry Ceremony on Zoom. According to Ojibwe tradition, the sixth moon of Creation is Strawberry Moon (Ode’imini-giizis), and the medicine of the strawberry is reconciliation. It was during this moon cycle that communities usually held their annual feasts, welcoming everyone home, regardless of their differences over the past year, and letting go of judgment and/or self-righteousness. All are welcome to join the Strawberry Ceremony.

Reconciliation and Indigenization at George Brown College

Today and every day, we recognize that post-secondary institutions like ours can and must work to bring about tangible change. As a college and as members of the broader community, we must learn about our responsibilities under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and take meaningful action.

As we look towards the future at George Brown, we have made reconciliation a priority in our strategic planning. Although we are just beginning this work, here are some of the steps we’ve taken:

  • Created the college’s first ever Director of Indigenous Initiatives role, and are currently in the process of recruiting for this leadership position.
  • Incorporated an Indigenous land acknowledgment onto our website, which will also be included in email signatures, presentation templates and other channels. This statement recognizes that our campuses are located on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and other Indigenous peoples who have lived here over time.
  • Our Indigenous Education and Services team has been working with Indigenous artist Joseph Sagaj to develop a new logo, which will soon be shared with our community. Drawing on Indigenous symbols and beliefs, this logo will highlight the important work of this department while creating an increased sense of belonging for Indigenous students and recognizing diversity at George Brown College.
  • Committed to delivering on CICan’s Indigenous Education Protocol, as well as the Dimensions Charter – a statement of principles for institutions working to eliminate systemic barriers to achievement for Indigenous and racialized peoples.
  • Developed videos to inform our community about the services available to Indigenous students, as well as the teachings of our Knowledge and Wisdom Keeper, Pauline Shirt.
  • We continue to be guided by our long-standing Sahkitcheway Indigenous Education Council, which works to ensure that Indigenous worldviews, needs and issues influence college decision-making.

We know there is much more work to be done to eliminate systemic barriers and to promote a fair and inclusive community in which to study, work and live. This work will continue in the months ahead, as we work to enhance our institutional focus on anti-racism and Indigenous issues and strengthen our support for Indigenous and racialized peoples in our community.