This year, the Queen’s Native Students’ Association (QNSA) wants to get people of all backgrounds involved in Aboriginal Awareness Week. The week, which runs from March 16-21, celebrates indigenous histories and cultures with a wide array of events.
“I’ve often found that when I tell people about QNSA and the work we do, they feel like they can’t take part because they aren’t of indigenous ancestry, or if they are, because they don’t feel connected to that part of themselves,” says Leah Combs (Artsci’16), President of QNSA. “We want our events to be spaces where anyone can learn about these issues and not feel like they’re stepping out of their place.”
Among the week’s events are a bannock sale at University Avenue and Union Street, a medicine shield-making workshop at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and a panel discussion in Grant Hall about missing and murdered aboriginal women. The panel discussion, which concludes the Our Stolen Sisters radio series by CFRC, will feature Queen’s professors Robert Lovelace (Global Development Studies), Sam McKegney (English Language and Literature), as well as Dr. Dawn Harvard, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Capping off the week will be the Indigenous Celebration of Arts, Culture and Dance, held for the first time at the newly-opened Tett Centre. Along with crafts and traditional food vendors, the celebration will have a performance by a Haudenosaunee water drummer, Metis jigging, and performance by the Red Spirit Singers and Dancers.
Throughout Aboriginal Awareness Week, QNSA will have a history exhibit in the lower ceilidh of the John Deutsch University Centre. They’ve worked with the City of Kingston to create a visual presentation of Kingston’s indigenous peoples throughout history.
“We’re trying to tie in histories of indigenous groups in Kingston to groups that are here now — we want to bring the past to the present and look towards the future.”
Along with raising awareness about indigenous issues, many of the week’s events will raise funds to support a new initiative started by QNSA. With the Northern Food Security Initiative, the QNSA is sponsoring an impoverished Inuit family who live in Taloyoak, Nunavut. Each month, the group is sending the family traditionally hunted foods, such as musk ox and caribou, or supplies of their choosing. Donation boxes will be present at each of the week’s events for those looking to make a contribution.
“It’s important to understand that the issues indigenous peoples in Canada face are the responsibilities of all Canadians, not just those with indigenous ancestry,” says Ms. Combs.