College creates Department of Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation

By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A brand new department that will be focused on reconciliation and on providing opportunities for Indigenous post-secondary students has been created at a northern Manitoba college.

The University College of the North (UCN) has announced the establishment of the Department of Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation and said the new department will be officially put in place on Jan. 3.

UCN, which has its main campuses in Thompson and in The Pas, and services a large area of northern Manitoba with smaller learning centres based in several northern and Indigenous communities, said the department will be focused on their “agenda of reconciliation.”

“UCN is committed to enlivening the principles and Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” UCN said in a media release.

“UCN recognizes that truth must precede reconciliation.

Therefore, UCN commits to seeking and to sharing the truth of Indigenous people. This truth includes the legacy of Indian Residential Schools, the Sixties’ Scoop, the appropriation of land, the failure to respect treaties, and the continuation of colonization.

“The journey towards reconciliation begins with truths, and the work of reconciliation is the responsibility of all UCN faculties, departments and areas.”

UCN’s vice-president academic and research Dr. Dan Smith said in a media release that the new department will also increase access to Indigenous programming and education at the college.

“When fully implemented, the department will lead UCN’s efforts in reconciliation, creating opportunities to increase access to Indigenous language training and revitalization, pursuing research in Indigenous languages and culture, and helping to ensure that UCN continues to be a leader in reconciliation in post-secondary education,” Smith said.

“The new department will help to guide UCN’s curriculum with respect to inclusion of Indigenous content, worldviews, and Indigegogy.”

UCN has also announced that Dr. Ramona Neckoway, a Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) member who has served UCN as an assistant professor and as the chair of the Aboriginal Northern Studies program, will lead the new department.

Smith said UCN believes that Neckoway, who has a background in Indigenous language research, is a “natural fit” to lead the department.

“Dr. Neckoway has an exciting and ambitious agenda that will see UCN’s approach to reconciliation informed by Indigenous knowledge, research, culture, language, and community engagement,” Smith said.

Neckoway said she is excited to take on the new role and hopes the department will bring new and culturally-relevant opportunities to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at UCN.

“As an Indigenous scholar from northern Manitoba, I embark on this new role with great humility, and I look forward to creating diverse and multifaceted opportunities,” Neckoway said.

-Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.



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