Indigenous Students’ Union (ISU) and University of Alberta Students’ (UASU) Devote Week to Residential School Memorial on Campus

News Staff - Mon Sep 26, 2022

Speakers, Elders, collaborators and attendees will begin this year’s Residential School Memorial ceremonies this afternoon from noon to 3PM. The memorial will hold space at the main quad until October 3rd. The University of Alberta is located on unlawfully stolen land and unceded Papaschase Cree territory, as well as Treaty 6 Territory and is the homeland of the Métis Nation.

“The Residential School Memorial is an important reminder,” says ISU President Malijha Moyan, “to those on campus that Indigenous Peoples are still mourning and still fighting to get justice for those who died in Residential Schools. The Memorial will be emotional and healing for Indigenous Peoples. For Non-Indigenous Peoples, it’s a time to reflect on the legacy and ongoing forced assimilation of Indigenous Peoples, past and present, and how we can revise our futures .”

There will be a total of 10,028 flags placed in the grounds near the Sweetgrass Bear. With each flag, the ISU and the UASU intend to commemorate a child lost to Residential Schools and commit to safeguarding each other’s healing. Each orange flag represents the additional number of graves found since last year’s memorial, 139 flags bear the name of the Residential Schools that operated on lands currently known as Canada, while yellow, white, blue and red flags represent the colors of the medicine wheel and the facets of healing ourselves and our relations.

“We ask that passersby and attendees honor the children who were forcibly removed from their communities,” says UASU Vice President Julia Villoso. “We encourage participants to reflect on the flag colors throughout the week and start the work in their hearts. We hope that in doing so, we may all recommit to acting in ways that own our colonial history and support our collective healing. Donations to support survivors can be made to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) and further topics to unsettle our ways of being can be found through this free resource guide.”

“The memorial is student-led,” says ISU Vice-President Consultation and Engagement Shannon Cornelsen. “We are proud to make the time for one another to gather, remember, share and heal. With many more people in attendance this year, I hope that we will see firm movement toward the promised Maskwa House of Learning and increased support for The First Peoples’ House, which provides transition services to Indigenous students on campus. So many students, staff, alumni and future generations will benefit from firm action on building plans for Maskwa House(1).”

It is thanks to the work of advocates and students that the Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Committee (ARRC) created a comprehensive list of recommendations for the Students' Union in 2018-2019. The ISU and the UASU continue to work together to complete commitments and to ensure the University of Alberta implements the TRC Calls to Action - specifically #24 and #28, which addresses the role of post-secondary institutions in reconciliation. The University of Alberta Indigenous Strategic Plan was a step forward and the ISU and UASU look forward to continued investment and accountability in these areas.

"Last year, the ISU and UASU councilors got together”, says UASU VP Julia Villoso, “for a humble event in the November cold. This year the event has grown substantially and we hope that in recognition of our shared histories, through grief and reflection, we will create futures worthy of us."

(1): Maskwa House of Learning, announced in 2015, is intended to be a specialized space for Indigenous students on campus, used for programming and ceremonies. Maskwa House was also captured in the 2022 University of Alberta Indigenous Strategic plan on p.35 as a U of A Response to UNDRIP and the TRC Calls to Action. To date no plans or funding structures have been publicized.

About the Indigenous Students’ Union

The Indigenous Students’ Union is the official representative of more than 2000 undergraduate students at the University of Alberta. The ISU operates as both a Student Representative Association (SRA) and under the umbrella of the Dean of Students (DoS) to create a safe and inclusive space for self-identified Indigenous students.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Shannon Cornelsen

Vice-President Consultation and Engagement, Indigenous Students’ Union

About the University of Alberta Students’ Union

The UASU is the official representative of 35,000 undergraduate students at the University of Alberta. It advocates for students’ needs and priorities to the University of Alberta and at all levels of government.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Ari Campbell

External Relations Specialist, University of Alberta Students’ Union

News Stories