(Editor’s note: Due to continued uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, the Building Reconciliation Forum has been rescheduled to June 2023. This is to ensure the forum can benefit from the full participation of local Indigenous communities and can engage in meetings and events in-person.)
Western University, in close collaboration with Indigenous communities in London, Ont. and surrounding region, will host a national forum aimed at advancing social and institutional transformation within Indigenous education and the work of Truth and Reconciliation.
Supported by Universities Canada and coordinated by Western’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives, the seventh annual Building Reconciliation Forum will take place at Western in June 2023 with the theme ‘Education for Reconciliation: Rebuilding Stronger and with Intentionality.’
The forum will support participants in exploring critical issues related to universities’ response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and Indigenizing the academy by sharing and discussing innovative ideas and promising practices.
Christy R. Bressette, Western’s first vice-provost and associate vice-president (Indigenous initiatives), asserts that the forum will provide intentional opportunities for collaboration surrounding complex intersections of Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation into institutional practice.
“Our goal is for forum participants to become further equipped with a deeper understanding of what institutions of higher learning can do to advance the work and impact of reconciliation,” said Bressette. “We anticipate that the forum will raise critical issues pertaining to Indigeneity in higher education, outline ways of addressing them, and provide concrete steps for postsecondary institutions to undertake.”
Western’s strategic plan, Towards Western at 150, has made reconciliation with Indigenous communities a priority. “The forum will help to advance that priority by crystalizing the many issues that institutions of higher education need to address for reconciliation to occur,” said Bressette. “These range from Indigenous language revitalization and implementation of Indigenous knowledge frameworks, to supporting governance roles for Indigenous peoples on campus and advancing Indigenous research.”
Forum participation will include a cross-section of attendees from across Turtle Island and the entire Western community – students, faculty, and staff – as well as local Indigenous groups and community members. Organizers will respectfully engage local Indigenous groups and communities through Western’s Indigenous postsecondary education committee, and create space to profile the tremendous value of Indigenous knowledge – knowing, being, and doing – to the forum.
Plans are underway to develop a culturally relevant forum agenda, which will include keynote speakers, talking circles, and workshops.
“Congratulations to Western on its selection as host of the seventh annual Building Reconciliation Forum,” said Paul Davidson, president, Universities Canada. “The forum is an opportunity for postsecondary and Indigenous leaders from across the country to further advance the important work on Indigenous education and Truth and Reconciliation. Promoting Indigenous education and reconciliation remains a top priority for Canadian universities.”
With milestone investments in Indigenous initiatives, Western is steadily progressing in work toward Indigenization.
In July, the university welcomed four new Indigenous scholars: Spy Dénommé-Welch (Algonquin-Anishinaabe); Cody Groat (Kanyen’kehaka citizen and band member of the Six Nations of the Grand River); Sally Kewayosh (Bkejwanong Territory, Walpole Island First Nation); and Sofia Locklear (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina with roots in Kenora, Ont.).
This fall, Western also welcomed its first National Indigenous Scholarship recipients. Established in 2020, the scholarships are part of the university’s expanded investment in Indigenous recruitment and financial aid.
A new Indigenous Learning Space is set for completion next summer with Wanda Dalla Costa, the first Indigenous woman to practice architecture in Canada, as lead design architect on the project.