Georgian community update on Truth and Reconciliation
Sept. 25, 2023
This message is posted on behalf of Kevin Weaver, President and CEO
Aaniin, She:Kon, Nakurmiik, Tanshi, which means hello in Ojibwe, Mohawk, Inuktitut and Michif (the traditional language of the Métis).
As we approach the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I want to share an update about the progress we’ve made over the past year to enrich the college community with Indigenous culture and knowledge.
Last fall, we launched Maajiishkaadaa (Let’s Move Forward Together) – an Indigenization strategy to guide our actions through 2024. The priorities identified in the strategy fall under six pillars: Truth and Reconciliation, leadership, representation, community engagement, curriculum and pedagogy, and cultural enrichment.
Under the leadership pillar in the plan, we committed to establishing a director position to lead the work of the Indigenization strategy. I’m pleased to share we’re near completion in the recruitment process and an announcement about the new director is imminent.
I’m also delighted to announce that Mary-Anne Willsey has taken on the key role as Chair of Georgian’s Board of Governors. Mary-Anne has been a member of the board since 2020. She’s been a long-time supporter of the college, including Chair of the Anishinaabe Education and Training Circle.
Mary-Anne is part of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation and founder/owner of Mariposa Market in Orillia. I’ve deeply appreciated her counsel and expertise over the years and look forward to the lens she’ll bring to her new role. A full update on membership for the 2023-24 Board of Governors will be released following the board’s first meeting on Sept. 28.
Moments of reconciliaction
Georgian has taken many steps on our journey this year – with one of the most special reconciliaction moments taking place in May. The college was presented with an Eagle Feather by Curtis Copegog, alumnus of the Native Community and Social Development program (class of 2012, now called Indigenous Community and Social Development) and Addictions: Treatment and Prevention program (class of 2014).
The Eagle Feather was used for the first time in a convocation ceremony in June and will be incorporated in all ceremonies moving forward. The feather honours the strength, determination and commitment of our graduates. Many Indigenous cultures believe the feather is sacred because of its ability to fly closest to the Creator. It symbolizes respect, honour, strength, courage and wisdom.
Georgian also sought new ways to include Indigenous products in our procurement activities. For example, we’re now offering coffee from Birch Bark Coffee Company at select locations, including Coffee Conspiracy at the Barrie Campus and in the Marketplace at the Owen Sound Campus. The company was founded by Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow from Whitefish River First Nation and is a social enterprise, serving products grown and produced by farmers who are Indigenous descendants.
One of the moments I’m most proud of was when the college received gold in the category of Indigenous Education at the 2023 World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics’ Awards of Excellence for efforts to ensure the preservation of the Anishnaabemowin language.
Georgian students, faculty, graduates and partners have become recognized language champions developing and implementing sustainable programs and guiding us through issues affecting revitalization and preservation of both Indigenous language and culture.
Moving forward, together
These are just a few examples of how Georgian continues to deepen and enhance our commitment to Indigenization.
I also invite the Georgian community to participate in activities planned to commemorate the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and to consider what steps you can take toward reconciliaction on Sept. 30 and every day. For those who may be hurting, please know that we’re here to support you on your healing journey.
Chi-Miigwech. Thank you.