About 75 people took part in a peaceful ceremonial march in Barrie on Wednesday as part of the national Idle No More Day of Action.
Participants from a broad cross-section of the community gathered at the Indigenous Resource Centre at the Barrie Campus for prayers and a round dance. Then they walked along Georgian Drive to Duckworth Street where they performed more songs and round dances for about 20 minutes. Organizers worked in co-operation with Barrie City Police to ensure the safety of everyone involved, including motorists.
The march was not a Georgian College-sponsored event, but Maryann Fifield, Dean of Community and Government Programs, including the School of Indigenous Studies, says many of the people taking part have a close relationship with the college and the Indigenous Resource Centre. They include current students, alumni and members of local Aboriginal communities.
Fifield says the fact that those taking part in Wednesday’s event felt comfortable using the Resource Centre as a gathering point shows the strong community bonds with Georgian that have grown over the years. Georgian has had a partnership with the Anishnabe Education and Training Circle (AETC), a group comprised of members of local First Nations and urban Aboriginal organizations, for 20 years.
“One of the goals of the partnership has been for Georgian to be seen as a safe and welcoming place for Aboriginal people to visit, study and learn. Today we saw that goal realized,” Fifield says.
“The Centre acts as a resource not only for current and prospective students, but also for others in the wider community. We are honoured to have the participation of Elders and other community members in many of our centre activities, and that makes a big difference to our students. We teach students that they need to find their voice and this group here today has created an opportunity to make their point.”
More than 400 students of Aboriginal heritage (who have identified themselves to the Centre) are enrolled at Georgian, some in Indigenous Studies programs and many in other Georgian programs.