Written by Naomi (she/her), student
Waterloo has a vibrant and supportive community for Indigenous students to stay connected with each other, celebrate their culture, and explore Indigenous spaces all over campus.
Starting university is an amazing adventure – you’ll be exposed to new people, new customs, and new experiences. One of the best parts is the abundance of welcoming communities and spaces all around, where you can connect with other students and create some great memories.
Waterloo has a vibrant and welcoming community, one where students can stay connected to their Indigenous culture. Explore all the spaces on campus that celebrate and empower Indigenous students through events, workshops, and fun activities.
Office of Indigenous Relations (OIR)
The Office of Indigenous Relations is a department on campus that supports First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students, faculty, and staff, along with allies at Waterloo. Their work strengthens the central vision of reconciliation, as they offer support and resources to the campus community. They host events and workshops, providing the space and opportunity for people to learn and reflect together. OIR facilitates events for Treaties Recognition Week which works to teach the importance of treaty rights and relationships.
National Indigenous History Month is a proud and joyous time at the University, filled with special events and speakers. National Indigenous History Month highlights the historic achievements of Indigenous people, celebrating and strengthening collective knowledge of their rich community. There’s also frequent learning circles and events surrounding the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, including an orange shirt walk, feast, and sharing circle. Sign up for the Indigenous Relations Seasonal Newsletter to stay connected throughout the year!
Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre (WISC)
WISC is an important part of Waterloo’s Indigenous community – they provide cultural, academic, and social support to Indigenous students. Open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., their inclusive environment is a place for Indigenous students to connect with each other through a variety of events.
Soup and bannock days
Every Thursday, soup, bannock, and beading takes place at the centre from 12 – 2 p.m. during the fall and winter semesters, and on the last Thursday of every month during the spring. The space provides a welcoming atmosphere for everyone to meet new people, stay connected, and for allies to take an active step towards reconciliation. The cherry on top: there’s a giveaway for Indigenous students each week!
Ceremonial fire grounds and medicine garden
The ceremonial fire grounds and medicine garden on campus are sacred spaces that offer a place for peaceful reflection and promote community building. The fire grounds are used for ceremonies, educational opportunities, and other gatherings. The area is shaped like a medicine wheel with a turtle in the centre for the ceremonial fire to sit upon, and the medicine garden contains herbs and other plants that are traditionally used for ceremonies, medicinal, and blessing purposes.
Annual Pow Wow
The annual Pow Wow is a large gathering of the local Indigenous community, the campus community, and others from out of town, to celebrate traditional teachings in the Indigenous community. At the ceremonial fire grounds, a fire keeper is present with traditional medicines throughout the Pow Wow. Here, people have the opportunity to connect and learn through drumming, dancing, food, and other elements of Indigenous culture.
Opportunities to stay connected don’t stop with just those few events mentioned – there are other opportunities available all year long! The Waterloo Indigenous Student Residence is the perfect opportunity for this, a live-in Indigenous program that supports the unique needs of Indigenous students. This is a place for students to create a sense of belonging among one another and build strong relationships. The Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering Society (caISES) is another organization focused on supporting and creating a community for Indigenous students, specifically in STEM. The caISES chapter at Waterloo invites any engineering students to join and meet other Indigenous soon-to-be engineers, providing the space to grow professionally and academically.
You may also want to check out the Indigenous Knowledge Keeper’s Space and Indigenous Gathering Space in B.C Mathews Hall (BMH). The Indigenous Knowledge Keeper’s Space in BMH 3101 is where you’ll find Elder Myeengun Henry – drop by or book an appointment to chat with him! The Indigenous Gathering Space in BMH 3701 is a warm and welcoming environment for members of the Indigenous community to hang out and spend time together.
The Indigenous Studies minor is a great opportunity for students to expand their knowledge and learn about Indigenous culture, history, contemporary issues, as well as examine and highlight the rich Indigenous community across Canada. Bursaries, awards, and scholarships are available to Indigenous students as well, to help make education more accessible.
Academic programming in Indigenous Entrepreneurship is also being delivered as a minor and a diploma, which captures the unique cultural elements of the Indigenous way of doing business, focusing on the priorities of Indigenous entrepreneurs. The program is also being offered in a work-integrated learning opportunity where students can participate in entrepreneurship training programs that are built on a model of Indigenized business education and experiential learning. This hands-on experience provides students with training and support from a network of Indigenous entrepreneurs, elders, and community organizations to launch their own projects and ventures.
Whether you sign up for a workshop, take a course to learn about Indigenous history, or attend the annual Pow Wow, Indigenization is blooming throughout Waterloo, and anyone can partake in celebrating and learning about Indigenous culture.
Waterloo’s rich Indigenous community has many spaces, events, and opportunities for Indigenous students to stay connected with one another and continue thriving. Creating and maintaining welcoming environments is a constant priority, and Indigenous culture at Waterloo is shared and embraced across campus.