National Indigenous Peoples Day message from the President
By Vivek Goel. This article was originally featured on the President's blog.
You may have noticed that at University of Waterloo events, we begin with a land acknowledgement that recognizes that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. We also highlight that our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. I often expand upon the acknowledgement by personally encouraging attendees to deepen their own understandings of Indigenous cultures and histories.
I hope these land acknowledgments encourage true reflection throughout the year. It is especially important that we intentionally take time as we celebrate National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day to honour the history, heritage and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, and to celebrate the achievements of our Indigenous community members.
Last week, at each Convocation, we were privileged to have the Cedar Hill Singers open our celebrations with traditional drumming and an honour song. Indigenous Knowledge Keeper Myeengun Henry provided very moving opening and closing remarks that reminded us of our connections to the traditional landkeepers of this region.
The richness of Indigenous histories in our region, across Canada, and around the world provide true insight into where we live. The stories passed from one generation to another provide a rich tapestry of the changes to the land, its people and the climate.
Now is also an important time to reflect on Truth and Reconciliation, and acknowledge that there is still much to do in order to address the many inequalities and challenges established over generations of colonialism, intolerance and lack of action.
We recently passed the one-year anniversary of the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the site of a Kamloops residential school. That number continues to rise as more sites are investigated. It is imperative that we continue to support members of our community who are affected by these horrific losses, and continue the important work of Truth and Reconciliation on our campuses.
Reconciling with Indigenous communities is our shared responsibility. And it is one I take very seriously as president and vice-chancellor. The University’s active work in this area takes place through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within the Office of Indigenous Relations. We work collaboratively on- and off-campus to not only advance the goals of the 94 Calls to Action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, but also to create a long-term vision for the University that is grounded in decolonization.
The President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce’s recently published report also outlined recommendations that include decolonizing approaches to our programs and services, examining how we can incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into our work, providing supports and mentorship opportunities for our Indigenous members of our community, and hosting events to support and celebrate Indigenous identity, among others. I look forward to working with the University community to implement these recommendations.
Understanding Indigenous histories and cultures, and taking responsibility are vital components of the reconciliation process—as an institution, as individuals, and as a society. If, like me, you wish to learn more, I encourage you to review the Waterloo Library’s Indigenous Peoples in Canada reading list (among other resources) to put recent events in context and help situate them within the landscape of Canada’s colonial history. I also encourage you to follow the work of our Office of Indigenous Relations, participate in the events hosted this month dedicated to cultural learning, and to build your knowledge and allyship.
I hope your learnings and reflections this month will help you make meaningful contributions to the work of reconciliation that will benefit the post-secondary education sector, and ultimately the social fabric of the country.
Miigwech (thank you) for doing your part to champion reconciliation in our community.
Suspending our mask requirement on June 30
A Message from Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor and James W. E. Rush, Vice-President, Academic and Provost.
As you are aware, on March 22, the province lifted its mandatory masking requirement in most settings, with the remaining requirements in high-risk settings like health care ending on June 11. The Region of Waterloo also lifted its requirements for masking on public transportation and at customer service centres on June 11, in alignment with the province’s announcement.
On April 14, in consultation with public health advisors and other post-secondary institutions, we announced that we would extend our campus mask requirement to create a transition period past the end of the winter term and through the in-person Spring convocation ceremonies to minimize potential operational disruption under the circumstances at the time. We committed to revaluating the requirement after convocation.
Today, we’re making the decision to suspend our mask requirement after June 30. In addition to the lifting of provincial and municipal mask requirements noted above, this decision is also consistent with a variety of indicators including campus data, case counts, test positivity rates, local hospitalization and wastewater data, and consulting public health guidance.
Though the trends right now allow us to remove the requirement for everyone to wear a mask, we encourage you to continue to wear a tight-fitting, well-constructed mask if you feel it is the right choice for you, in any setting. We particularly encourage you to consider continuing to wear a mask in large gatherings like classrooms or at exams.
We’ve all seen the value of wearing a mask to help limit the spread of a variety of diseases from COVID-19 to the common cold. Wearing a mask is a good way to show you are being considerate of the people around you. Please respect the choices of others in our community who may wish to continue to wear a mask.
Physical distancing or capacity limits are not required under current public health guidance.
As always, we’ll keep this decision under careful review and we may choose to bring back a requirement to wear a mask to come to our campuses if public health conditions change.
Of course, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you were exposed to the virus you should do the Ontario self-assessment to get advice on what to do and whether you should stay home.
You may have already submitted proof of vaccination prior to May 1, 2022. However, our new Campus Check-in tool utilizes the QR code on your valid Canadian or Ontario vaccination certificate.
Waterloo's St. Paul's University College to change its name
This article was originally featured on Waterloo News.
St. Paul's University College will change its name this fall to United College.
Founded by the United Church as St. Paul's United College in 1962, the college and the church agreed to end their affiliation two decades ago. At that point, the institution became St. Paul's University College.
According to Principal Richard Myers, the decision to now transition to "United College" positions the institution well for its 21st-century mission. "It's a beautiful name that speaks to the inclusive values of today's College while still honouring those responsible for its founding and early development."
The St. Paul's University College Board of Governors approved the name change during its meeting on June 16. The decision followed 12 months of discussion and consultation with key stakeholder groups. The proposal was adopted unanimously, with the name change set to be formalized on September 24 as part of the launch of an institutional re-branding.
St. Paul's is a not-for-profit, small teaching and living environment within the University of Waterloo and is located on its main campus. St. Paul's serves the Waterloo community through teaching and delivering support for Waterloo courses and providing residence to students of all Faculties. The institution also supports students in pursuing and launching new ideas for social or environmental change through the social impact incubator, GreenHouse. It also facilitates the sharing of Indigenous knowledge via the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre.
Valuing water for our shared sustainable future
By Sam Toman. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.
Today the planet is straining under the weight of human development and governments and institutions are searching for innovative answers to protect our planet.
Thanks to efforts by researchers like Kelsey Leonard, who joined the Faculty of Environment in 2020, we're exploring and valuing essential environmental knowledge long ignored by non-Indigenous decision-makers.
Indigenous Peoples have vast knowledge systems and scientific traditions that can work alongside western scientific methods. With global warming now raising sea levels, Leonard’s position as Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Waters, Climate and Sustainability, will help her explore ways of facilitating Indigenous knowledge to restore our threatened oceans, lakes and rivers while assuring Indigenous sovereignty.
For those unsure of what exactly this entails, Leonard’s TED Talk, Why lakes and rivers should have the same rights as humans (viewed by more than 3 million people), explores how reforming our legal system can be a first step to protecting bodies of water and fundamentally transforming how we value this vital living entity.
“A big part of who I am as a scholar and a scientist is very much informed by the identity of being a water person and a person from the shore,” says Leonard who is a citizen of Shinnecock Indian Nation located on what’s commonly known as Long Island, New York.
The territory of the Shinnecock Nation sits on a peninsula jutting out into Shinnecock Bay and shares a barrier island protecting them from the Atlantic Ocean. The people of the Shinnecock Nation are skilled fishers and were traditionally whalers.
"We are also known for being wampum makers and harvesting and carving wampum used to form many treaties and we continue to cultivate the cultural practice and artistry," she says.
Co-mobilization of Indigenous and western science
Like many coastal communities along the Atlantic seashore of the United States and Canada, the Shinnecock Nation, was severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. At the time Leonard was beginning her journey towards a law degree — which she earned in 2015 — in an effort to address many of the structural injustices embedded within the law. Such laws promote environmental racism and disproportionate climate impacts for Indigenous Peoples — including the Shinnecock — as extreme climate events continue to increase.
“My research centers around Indigenous water justice, including identifying pathways for Indigenous conservation practices to inform international water policy,” says Leonard who recently contributed her expertise to the development of the U.S. Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5).
Leonard represents the Shinnecock Indian Nation as a steering committee member of the Mid-Atlantic Committee of the Ocean charged with the protection and restoration of America's ocean and coasts. Her scientific and policy background led to her expert testimony on ocean-based climate solutions before the U.S. Congress as America aims to correct course and regain its prominence as a global climate leader.
“Indigenous Peoples are on the front lines of many of the world’s water security crises. The water challenges and innovations present in our communities can offer best practices for adaptation and resiliency for other communities or societies facing similar water injustices,” she says.
Indigenous Peoples have been excluded from international water management because of an intellectual inherited legacy of colonialism that fails to acknowledge Indigenous experience and expertise.
It’s something Leonard explores in her most recent report, Turtle Island (North America) Indigenous Higher Education Institutions and Environmental Sustainability Education. In it she applies a critical lens to the environmental and sustainability programs of the 38 Tribal Colleges and Universities in the United States and 26 Indigenous post-secondary institutions in Canada.
“Knowledge translation for co-mobilization of Indigenous and western science to address climate change is one of the greatest obstacles facing contemporary transboundary water governance,” she says. “In the context of the Great Lakes, pluralistic and co-existing worldviews often conflict, and shared paths for adaptive solutions are missed. For example, the language used by some western scientists and institutions in developing water governance policy in response to invasive species in the Great Lakes and elsewhere tends to be highly combative, militarized and violent. Policy and processes that emphasize eradication and hard-solutions over nature-based solutions tend to be ill-received by Indigenous Peoples and governments.”
Using Indigenous knowledge for global water challenges
What Leonard finds fascinating, and counter-intuitive to many non-Indigenous researchers, is that maybe we just haven't found the purpose of invasive species or the process by which they have now come to exist in this part of the world.
“In the context of my transboundary research in the region, Indigenous environmental leaders from the Great Lakes often shared with me the belief that every living entity on the planet has a purpose and as a human being our goal is to understand these relationships, roles and responsibilities to that other entity.”
Though her work has brought her from New York to the Grand River valley (or Kenhionhata:tie as it’s known by the Mohawk), Leonard’s focus on water justice remains local as well as global, and her advocacy unwavering.
“Indigenous science is built from vast knowledge systems that have thrived for millennia in stewardship of Turtle Island and should be the foundation of our shared sustainable future."
Join the Office of Indigenous Relations on Thursday, June 22 for a free webinar featuring Susan Aglukark. The event, entitled Nomad: Correcting the Narrative runs from 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Register now.
Working with the Writing and Communication Centre gives you the space to develop the skills you need to share your knowledge with confidence. Visit us in Dana Porter library for in person drop-in appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. Make progress on your writing at the Hybrid Writing Cafés. Tuesday and Friday from 9:00 to 2:00 pm and Wednesday from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the SLC GSA lounge and on LEARN.