Brock’s Aboriginal Student Services has a goal: to help all Aboriginal students, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit students, make the transition to the Brock University community. The organization also provides support and resources to enhance their academic success and cultural identity at Brock.
As more and more students are self-identifying as Aboriginal peoples [Aboriginal peoples are those who identify themselves as Indian (Status or Non- Status), Inuit, or Metis], Brock’s Aboriginal Student Services can help with the transition.
Aboriginal Student Services offers academic and cultural support so that Aboriginal students are able to hold strong onto their identity while in a university setting. The services are offered because academic struggles are common and expected when anyone transitions into a university setting. Aboriginal peoples at Brock are offered specific services because too often academic struggles are exacerbated by cultural obstacles, and cultural supports are often instrumental in finding personal success even with these added obstacles.
The academic services available to Aboriginal peoples are free tutoring sessions, free academic support with A-Z Learning Services, workshops on things such as essay writing, time management, etc., Academic Zone online modules and other mechanisms to maintain positive academic strategies.
Transitioning Aboriginal peoples often face cultural barriers. Students may face difficulty and stigma in choosing to self-identify. Aboriginal Student Services works closely with Aboriginal peoples to help them to maintain their cultural and personal identity despite opposition and oppression.
One recent cultural event that took place at Brock was the Cultural Painting Workshop, held on Oct. 17 in the Aboriginal Student Services office (located at Thistle complex room 145, accessible through Guernsey Market).
“Painting is just another medium that Aboriginal people have turned to to express the culture and the strong symbols and legends that exist within the different cultures,” said Shania Porter, a fifth-year student who identifies as Aboriginal.
Porter explained further how the pieces, such as animals and landscapes painted were symbolic of the culture.
“Many symbols within aboriginal culture majority comes from animals. That is because aboriginal culture includes many animals that were around the area into their stories to either explain the world around them or to teach lessons. A large style now is the woodland style which was developed by Norval Morrisseau, who was Anishinaabe. One of the other symbols that was painted at this workshop was feathers. Certain feathers are held in high regards and to receive one is a great honour. Feathers from an eagle are the most sacred ones, because eagles were believed to have a connections with the Creator because of how high they can fly,” said Porter.
Much like this day of painting, upcoming events hosted by Aboriginal Student Services are open to all students regardless of cultural identity, providing learning opportunities for students who do not identify as Aboriginal as well as supportive spaces for those who do.
“All of our workshops are open to everyone and we welcome anyone who wishes to come and to relax and just enjoy doing crafts,” said Porter.
There is a Moccasin making workshop on Oct. 31, and another is planned for Nov. 14. In addition, there will be a general workshop on Nov. 28 with different crafts provided, allowing students to begin new crafts or finish previous ones.
These crafts are held so that self-identified Aboriginal peoples can meet with like-minded individuals and express their culture. The crafts also provide a few hours of respite from academic life.
“I think many students left happy with their results. It was a good way for them to try something new or to have a chance to talk with friends and relax while doing a fun activity,” said Porter.
Aboriginal Student Services strives to provide cultural and academic support so people can maintain their identity or transition into the Aboriginal identity. Still, Porter hinted that it would be nice if the culture could be represented outside of their office in Thistle.
“There is not a strong representation of Aboriginal culture at Brock, but it is also not non-existent. I think with any other culture it would feel nice and included if your own culture had more of a presence around the school,” said Porter.
Support from students who do not identify as Aboriginal is a component of increased Indigenization on campus, and attending Aboriginal Student Services events is one step towards allowing the presence of Indigenous culture on campus to grow.
If you would like to pursue or are simply curious about the self-identification process, the form is accessible at the Aboriginal Student Services website: brocku.ca/aboriginal-student-services. Additional inquiries should be directed towards Sandra Wong, who can recommend cultural and academic services available to Aboriginal peoples. Wong can be contacted by email or in person at the Aboriginal Student Services space in Thistle complex.
It is important to note that Brock is located on the traditional land of the Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee Peoples.