A special Senate meeting recognizing the 175th anniversary of the first class starting at Queen’s took on extra meaning Tuesday afternoon.
In his address to Senate, Principal Daniel Woolf acknowledged Queen’s presence on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and the Anishnaabe Peoples. He also reiterated the university’s commitment to building good relations with Aboriginal Peoples and creating meaningful change on campus.
“For too long, our country’s mistreatment and segregation of Indigenous Peoples has been hidden from view, only to perpetuate and contribute to their suffering. To move forward in healing, we must acknowledge Queen’s own history as an institution that participated in a colonial tradition that caused great harm to Indigenous People,” said Principal Woolf, who also chairs Senate.
In the coming weeks, the Truth and Reconciliation Task Force will release its final report, which will contain recommendations that address federal calls to action and broader themes at the university of relationship-building, changing perspectives and policy, and promoting an awareness of the rights, histories, and contemporary issues of Indigenous Peoples. Principal Woolf told Senate that he is committed to dedicating the time and resources required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the recommendations.
“The Queen’s community can and must change the narrative,” he said. “By taking steps to ensure that Indigenous histories are shared, recognizing that all students can benefit from Indigenous knowledge, and by creating culturally validating learning environments, we can begin to reduce barriers to education and create a more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse university.”
The special Senate meeting began with a traditional Mohawk-language opening by Nathan Brinklow, a lecturer in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Mr. Brinklow presented Principal Woolf with a friendship wampum on behalf of the Clan mothers at Tyendinaga and the Grandmother’s Council in Kingston. The wampum belt will be placed at the head table at every Senate meeting as a reminder that Senate meetings take place on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. The Whispering Wind Drum Group also performed a traditional honour song.
Following the principal’s statement, Queen’s Senate approved the naming of March 7 as “First Class Day.” At the first Senate meeting on March 7, 1842, 12 students were presented to Senate for consideration for matriculation.
Paul Banfield, University Archivist, presented a short history of Queen’s Royal Charter.