The Office of Indigenous Relations was established January 2020, but the background work leading to the creation of the Office started decades ago. The earliest known informal work was carried out in the 1980’s and 90’s by Elaine Garner, an Anishinaabe Kwe and former senior manager, Graduate Studies Financial Aid Programs.
During her 34-year career at Waterloo, before any formation of Indigenous services or associations, Garner was and remains a strong support for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students and staff. She encouraged and helped students establish the first Aboriginal Student Association in the mid 1990’s, advocated for the first Native Studies course at St. Paul’s United College and supported gatherings, celebrations and Indigenous events until her retirement. She was also instrumental in establishing the Shatitsirótha Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre (WISC), which was created in 2003, at St. Paul’s United College. During the years, WISC has provided leadership, resources and supports to the entire Waterloo community.
In 2017, Waterloo formally began an Indigenization Strategy under the leadership of the president and vice-chancellor and associate vice-president, Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion (HREI). The Indigenization Strategy process brought together people from all areas of the campus community. The dedicated commitment and extensive work of the committee and working groups produced more than one hundred recommendations within nine thematic areas. We would like to thank the 2018 Indigenization Strategy Committee and working groups for this effort.
The work and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the 2018 Indigenization Strategy Committee, the President’s Anti-racism Taskforce Report and the HREI Report continue to inform and guide the work of indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation at Waterloo.
In 2018, the director of WISC was hired on a part-time contract as director, Indigenous Initiatives to help guide the work of the 2018 Indigenization Strategy. In January 2020, a senior director, Indigenous Initiatives was hired and formally established the Indigenous Initiatives Office in HREI.
In 2021, the Office of Indigenous Relations was created as a standalone unit under the direction of an associate vice-president. The office serves as a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and has oversight on this strategy.
On September 22, 2022, the Indigenous Peoples of the University of Waterloo asked Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor, for a full commitment to reconciliation, indigenization and decolonization. President Goel acknowledged the University’s full commitment through a formal Commitment Ceremony.