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Queen’s honours National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day

Chancellor Murray Sinclair
Chancellor Murray Sinclair is the former chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Manitoba’s first Indigenous judge, and recently retired from the Canadian Senate.

Listen as Chancellor Murray Sinclair shares his thoughts on reconciliation and how Queen’s is contributing

On June 21, people across the country will be marking National Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s an opportunity to honour the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

In his role as Queen’s University Chancellor, the Honourable Murray Sinclair, shared his thoughts on the importance of sustaining the national push for reconciliation.    

“The importance of Indigenous Peoples Day is that it gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the rich history and the culture of Indigenous people, their historical presence, and the fact that they have a history in this country that has long been ignored by Canadian authorities and by the general society; because it was in Canada's interest that history be ignored, and their presence be ignored and often belittled,” said the Honourable Murray Sinclair in a special message. “But now, we are in an era when we're beginning to recognize the importance of it and the contributions that Indigenous people are making to Canadian society.”

“At Queen's University, we're contributing to that participation and we're contributing as well to the important influence that Indigenous people can make to this country through the students and the faculty members that we have, and the fact that we are beginning to focus our thoughts on reconciliation and how we can come to a better relationship with the Indigenous community,” he said.  

Marking reconciliation on campus

To help mark our ongoing commitment to this change, Queen’s intends to install a flagpole on campus to permanently fly the Truth and Reconciliation Survivors’ Flag. The university hopes to install the flag near the historical plinth at Ontario Hall that is dedicated to the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee peoples. The plinth itself will also be updated, noting the appointment of the Honourable Murray Sinclair, Queen’s first Indigenous Chancellor.

“As we mark National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day, we recognize these are opportunities to learn about, honour, and commemorate the rich history, heritage, linguistic, and cultural diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples across Canada,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Queen’s University is dedicated to building a campus and community committed to reconciliation.”

First cohort of graduates of the Queen’s Certificate in Mohawk Language and Culture program

This June also marks a significant moment as the first cohort of graduates of the Queen’s Certificate in Mohawk Language and Culture program will be attending a special convocation ceremony on June 23 in Tyendinaga, where the program is delivered.  This program allows students, who are members of the Tyendinaga community and Mohawk Nation, to stay in their home community while learning about Mohawk language and culture. In 2018, this Queen’s partnership began with Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na Language and Cultural Centre in Tyendinaga, to help move forward Mohawk language revitalization efforts.

Partnering with Kingston to raise awareness

In Kingston, the Queen’s Office of Indigenous Affairs will be marking National Indigenous Peoples Day by celebrating the Tipi Moza Transitional Housing Grand Opening, co-hosted with Tipi Moza, Kingston Indigenous Languages Nest, Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre at Queen’s, and Métis Nation of Ontario. Following the opening, there will be events at City Park, including Corn Husk Doll crafting, language activities, drumming, dancing, and traditional refreshments.

Throughout Indigenous History Month and the rest of the year, Queen’s invites the community to learn about Indigenous ways of knowing and contribute to a campus that embraces reconciliation. Many resources are available on the Office of Indigenous Initiatives website.

Transcript – Chancellor Murray Sinclair, Indigenous Peoples Day

[Indigenous Greeting] Hello everybody, I'm Chancellor Murray Sinclair from Queen's University.

I just wanted to take an opportunity to speak to you about the importance of Indigenous Peoples Day, which is on June 21st of every year.

The importance of Indigenous Peoples Day, of course, is that it gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the rich history and the culture of Indigenous people, their historical presence, and the fact that they have a history in this country that has long been ignored by Canadian authorities and by general society, because it was in Canada's interest that that history be ignored, and the presence be ignored and often belittled.

But now, we are in an era when we're beginning to recognize the importance of it and the contributions that Indigenous people are making to Canadian society.

At Queen's University, we're contributing to that participation and we're contributing as well to the important influence that Indigenous people can make to this country through the students and the faculty members that we have.  We are beginning to focus our thoughts on reconciliation and how we can come to a better relationship with the Indigenous community, not only around us, but across the country and with other universities as well, to engage them in a dialogue to see how post-secondary institutions themselves can contribute to a better understanding of the historical relationship that Canada and Indigenous people have had over the years and the important place that Indigenous people can play in this country.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, I want to encourage all of you to begin to think about how you can learn about Indigenous people. Those of you who are not studying it in your courses at university but are just generally participating in your daily life, in your communities, in your homes, and at your work.

What it is that you need to know, what it is that you’d like to know, how it is that you might be able to gain some experience as Canadians dealing with indigenous issues, and understanding indigenous issues as well, because remember that in this world – internationally – Canada's reputation depends upon the importance that Canada places upon all of its people, including those people who were here first. I think all of us have a ways to go in order to be able to make this country establish a better relationship than we have had in the past, and that we have historically been trying to present in a way that was not accurate so we have work to do. It takes all of us to be able to do it.

Thank you very much and enjoy Indigenous Peoples Day.