Students seek support from visiting elders
Queen’s students have formed strong bonds and relationships with visiting elders at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC). Allen Doxtator, a member of the Onyata:Ka (Oneida) Nation of the Thames in southwestern Ontario, has returned to the centre on several occasions over the last two years.
“Living in a whole different place off the reserve can be difficult and challenging,” he says. “I speak with individuals or groups and give them advice on things that are stressing them out.”
Shauna Shiels, a third-year PhD student in Cultural Studies, has met with Mr. Doxtator several times. The support of the elder and FDASC gave Ms Shiels the confidence to request a smudging—a purification ceremony—before presenting her work to an academic committee.
“Allen has helped me balance my academic work with the four directions of mental, physical, spiritual and emotional,” she says. “Four Directions and the elder program re-affirm that feeling of home and traditions.”
FDASC offers a rotation of visiting elders. One elder will normally visit the centre three days each month. FDASC tries to ensure Métis, Inuit, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee elders visit the centre because those are the primary nations of the Aboriginal students who frequent the centre.
“We’re trying to provide opportunities for our students to gather traditional knowledge from someone from their own cultural background,” says Janice Hill, Director, FDASC.
The visiting elders meet one-on-one with students, facilitate talking circles, and conduct ceremonies at the centre or in the tipi. Non-Aboriginal students have also started seeking the counsel of visiting elders.