St. Lawrence College has nearly 500 Indigenous students registered at all three of its campuses, and it is continuing its reconciliation efforts by implementing relatable programming.
Not only has the college renamed and rebranded its Indigenous centres across its campuses, but it is also ensuring that Indigenous ways and knowledge are embedded in its culture and services.
Helena Neveu has been on St. Lawrence College’s Indigenous and Student Affairs Team working with the school and Indigenous students since 2014. Earlier this month, she became the college’s knowledge keeper, and by following her guidance, the campuses in Cornwall, Brockville and Kingston have renamed their Eagle’s Nest Indigenous Centre the Waasaabiidaasamose Indigenous Centre.
This name is close to home for Neveu because it is a part of her spirit name in the Ojibwe language.
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“For 25 years I’ve had that name, Waasaabiidaasamose, and I really like it. Gathering and walking far. Giving it back to the school is a real honour,” says Neveu.
She says the meaning “translates to ‘walks for a woman,’ which also translates to ‘going far in a blizzard.’”
The centre has Indigenous student advisors who help Indigenous students navigate their studies and experience at St. Lawrence, foster greater appreciation of Indigenous culture, and offer students of all backgrounds a place to socialize.
Through Neveu, Indigenous students can find methods to achieve wellness, with mental, physical and spiritual support. And that’s what the name Waasaabiidaasamose promotes.
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“I am a Anishinaabe woman and we work through the medicine wheel. So I’m all about wellness,” says Neveu.
St. Lawrence College says it is committed to taking reconciliation seriously with this name change. President Glenn Vollebregt said it is important that Canada is held accountable for its treatment of Indigenous Peoples.
“Our commitment to truth and reconciliation and advancing Indigenous ways of knowing at being at St. Lawerence, at our Kingston, Cornwall, Brockville campus, is one of our priorities,” says Vollebregt.
While students can refer to the centre by its new name starting now, he says an official reopening event is in the works for when COVID-19 restrictions ease.
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