6th Annual Indigenous Awareness Week



McGill University’s Indigenous Awareness Week is designed to increase awareness at McGill about Indigenous peoples in Canada. The week honours the many Indigenous cultures across the country including First Nations, Métis and Inuit. The week also offers an opportunity to collaborate with community partners and draws active participation from McGill students, faculty and staff.

The week is organized by the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office at McGill University.

For more information, please contact the Indigenous Education Advisor, Allan Vicaire, via email at allan [dot] vicaire [at] mcgill [dot] ca or by phone at (514) 398-3711.


=>Monday, September 19 2016

Opening Ceremony

12:00PM – 3:00PM, Ballroom, Thomson House, 3650 McTavish Street

The Opening Ceremony for the 6th annual Indigenous Awareness Week will begin with a welcoming address and blessing from Elders Jean Stevenson and Delbert Sampson. The warm welcome will be followed by a performance by Odaya. The Keynote Speaker Dr. Taiaiake Alfred will share with us her insight on Indigenizing the academy. 

Opening Ceremony Schedule:

  • 12:00PM – 12:30PM: Lunch Buffet
  • 12:30PM – 12:50PM: Welcoming Address and Elder Blessing with Delbert Sampson and Jean Stevenson
  • 12:50PM – 1:10PM: Performance by Odaya
  • 1:10PM – 2:00PM: Keynote Discussion: Indigenizing the Academy with Dr. Taiaiake Alfred


Asé tsi Tewa:ton, “We will renew Ourselves” - The Mohawk Approach to Environmental and Cultural Restoration with Dr. Taiaiake Alfred

5:00PM – 6:30PM, Maxwell Cohen Moot Court (Room 100), New Chancellor Day Hall, 3644 Peel Street

This presentation will focus on the effects of environmental contamination on Indigenous people’s culture, language and health, and on an approach to addressing these cultural harms through the restoration of land based practices. Dr. Alfred will discuss this issue with reference to the concept of Indigenous Resurgence and the experiences of the Mohawk Nation in the modern era, with specific reference to the community of Akwesasne’s participation in the U.S. Natural Resources Damages Assessment (NRDA) process and their establishment of a land-based cultural and language apprenticeship program.

About the Speaker:

Taiaiake is from Kahnawá:ke in the Mohawk Nation. He is a Professor of Indigenous Governance and Political Science at the University of Victoria. He is the recipient of a Canada Research Chair, the award for best column writing by the Native American Journalists Association, and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award. Taiaiake has served as an advisor on land and governance issues to his own and other First Nations’ governments on Turtle Island and internationally since 1987, and before that he was an infantryman in the United States Marine Corps. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Concordia University and his MA and Ph.D. in comparative politics and political theory from Cornell University. He is the author of three books: Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors and Peace, Power, Righteousness from Oxford University Press, and Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom, from the University of Toronto Press.

In Partnership with: Indigenous Law Student’s Association

Film Screening and Panel Discussion: The Pass System

6:00PM – 9:00PM, Room 26, Leacock Building

The Pass System illuminates Canada’s hidden history of racial segregation. For over 60 years, the Canadian government often denied Indigenous peoples the basic freedom to leave their reserves without a pass. Cree, Soto, Dene, Ojibwe and Blackfoot elders of the prairie land where this took place tell their stories of living under and resisting the system, and link their experiences to today.  Director Alex Williams will introduce the film, followed by a panel discussion concerning “silenced Indigenous histories” featuring Director Alex Williams, Dr. Winona Wheeler, Ellen Gabriel, Sandra-Lynn Kahsennano:ron Leclaire, Dr. Orenda Boucher-Curotte, and Dr. Allan Downey.  

In Partnership with: McGill Institute for the Study of Canada



=>Tuesday, September 20 2016

KAIROS Blanket Exercise

10:00AM – 12:00PM, Room 200, Coach House, 3715 Peel Street

An interactive exercise on the relationships between the Crown and Indigenous peoples in Canada, from the settlers’ arrival to modern times. Participants are guided through centuries of denial of Indigenous nationhood and the gradual appropriation, relocation, and removal of Indigenous peoples and territories.

The exercise begins with blankets spread across the floor, which represent land occupied by Indigenous populations. As participants are guided through centuries of negotiations, treaties, decrees, and other interactions with European settlers, the blankets on which they stand are slowly removed, until only a few participants remain on a small area representing what little remains of Indigenous territory today. The exercise will then be followed by a talking circle.

Workshop will be given by Allan Vicaire, Indigenous Education Advisor, and Paige Isaac, Coordinator of the First Peoples’ House.

Spaces are limited. Register by e-mailing asp [dot] sede [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

About the Speakers:
Paige Isaac is Mi'gmaq from Listuguj, Quebec and is the Coordinator of the First Peoples' House, a Student Services unit at McGill University.  She earned a Bachelor's degree of Science at McGill in 2008 and has been working at McGill ever since, first as the Aboriginal Outreach Coordinator and then as Coordinator.  She works to promote and support Indigenous student success and well-being in a culturally welcoming environment.

Allan Vicaire ia member of the Mi’gmaq community of Listuguj, and is SEDE’s Indigenous Education Advisor. His primary role is to build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty at McGill. Allan champions and encourages civic engagement through the promotion of community-based learning.

In Partnership with: The First Peoples' House

The TRC & Religious Communities with Dr. John Borrows

4:00PM – 6:00PM, Birks Chapel, 3520 University Street

Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination in spiritual matters, including the right to practice, develop and teach their own spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies, consistent with Article 12.1 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP]. Many churches across Canada have committed to this proposition. This talk considers the opportunities and challenges found in committing to ongoing public dialogue and action to support UNDRIP. It acknowledges the significant challenges that churches and Indigenous communities face in rejecting discriminatory concepts such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius which undermine Indigenous peoples’ self-determination.

In Partnership with: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and McGill Religious Studies Department



=>Wednesday, September 21 2016

Reconciliation Ceremony: Indigenous Law, Justice and the TRC with Algonquin Elder Dominique Rankin, Dr. John Borrows and Dr. Rebecca Johnson

10:00AM – 11:30AM, Front Lawn, New Chancellor Day Hall, 3644 Peel Street

Join us on the front Lawn of the Law Faculty for a ceremony led by elder Dominique Rankin. Learn about the role of Indigenous law in responses to the TRC, with reflections from Anishnabe legal scholar John Borrows and fellow University of Victoria professor Rebecca Johnson.

About the Speakers:
Dominique Ranking (Kapiteotak) is an Algonquin hereditary chief and medicine man, former Grand Chief of the Algonquin Nation, co-author of the book “On nous appelait des sauvages” and one of the Honorary Presidents of UN accredited body Religions for Peace, among many other achievements. In 2013, he was Elder responsible for training the psychological and spiritual support team, for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Quebec.

John Borrows is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School, Fellow of the Trudeau Foundation, a Fellow of the Academy of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada, and a 2012 recipient of the Indigenous Peoples Counsel (I.P.C.) from the Indigenous Bar Association, for honor and integrity in service to Indigenous communities. John is Anishinabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Canada.

Rebecca Johnson is Full Professor at University of Victoria Law School. A pioneer in Canadian law-and-film scholarship, her research interests are marked by interdisciplinary, and include judicial dissent, cinema as a site of inter-cultural legal encounter, the economic imaginary, Indigenous legal methodologies, and sexuality. She has also been working for several years on a number of initiatives with the Indigenous Legal Research Unit. She has also worked on the development of the TRC-inspired blog.

In Partnership with: The Faculty of Law

Dreamcatcher Making Workshop (Staff and Faculty Only)

12:00PM – 2:00PM, Arts Council Room (Room 160), Arts Building

Explore your creative side and discover a part of First Nations traditional craft: the Dreamcatcher. The workshop will be led by Marie-Celine Charron from the Naskapis First Nation of Kawawachikamach.
Spaces are limited. Register by e-mailing asp [dot] sede [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

Dreamcatcher Making Workshop (McGill Students Only)

2:00PM – 4:00PM, Arts Council Room (Room 160), Arts Building

Explore your creative side and discover a part of First Nations traditional craft: the Dreamcatcher. The workshop will be led by Marie-Celine Charron from the Naskapis First Nation of Kawawachikamach.
Spaces are limited. Register by e-mailing asp [dot] sede [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

Turtle Island Reads

6:00PM – 9:00PM, Round Trip to Kahnawá:ke, Bus Pick Up at Milton Gates

Highlighting stories written by and about Indigenous Canadians, Turtle Island Reads is a live public event taking place on September 21, 2016, 7pm at Kahnawá:ke Survival School in Kahnawá:ke.

The event, broadcast on cbc.ca/montreal and Facebook Live, is a collaboration with community leaders in Kahnawá:ke, CBC Montreal, the Quebec Writers' Federation and McGill University's Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas.

Turtle Island Reads takes its inspiration from CBC’s Canada Reads, sharing that program's goals of discussing and celebrating books but without the alliances and strategic voting. Our event aims first and foremost to connect readers with Indigenous stories.

During the event three advocates will each discuss one book of fiction written by an Indigenous Canadian author:

  • Heather White, high-school teacher in Kahnawá:ke and actress in the APTN show Mohawk Girls will discuss Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese (Douglas & McIntyre);
  • Gage Diabo, musician, actor, and local Kahnawá:ke radio co-host will discuss The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King (Doubleday Canada);
  • and Elma Moses, Concordia University faculty member in First Peoples Studies and storyteller will discuss Nobody Cries at Bingo by Dawn Dumont (Thistledown Press).

For more information about the bus, visit: http://iplai.ca/what-we-do/research-public-exchange/turtle-island-reads/

In Partnership with: CBC Montreal, the Quebec Writers' Federation and McGill University's Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas



=>Thursday, September 22 2016

Launch of the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education

11:30AM – 12:30PM, Hochelaga Rock, Lower Campus

The Task Force will heed the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by identifying concrete initiatives, plans and strategies that will guide McGill as it works to embed indigeneity in the life and activities of the University.  The mandate of the Task Force  is comprehensive and will address questions related to physical representation and symbolic recognition, Indigenous student recruitment and retention, academic programs and curriculum, research and faculty hiring, as well as how to institutionalize these strategies and entrench the recommendations of the Task Force into the University for generations to come. In pursuing its mandate, the Task Force will consult widely, by engaging and collaborating with Indigenous communities and organizations, specially designated advisors, and numerous stakeholders within McGill.

Everyone is invited to a ceremony marking the relocation of the Hochelaga Rock and the launch of the Provost’s Taskforce on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education.


Reflections on the Truth & Reconciliation with Professor Michael Loft

2:00PM – 4:00PM, Room 200, Coach House, 3715 Peel Street

As the title implies, the TRC’s overarching mandate focuses on two primary goals: the “truth” aspect which attempts to establish an understanding of the harm done to Aboriginal People, specifically how their history, culture and identity was repressed; the second factor,  “reconciliation”, focuses on the reestablishment of good relations that were disrupted between Aboriginal People and Canadians. In this talk, the presenter (an inter-generational survivor) will focus on the latter and specifically, will offer suggestions how to bridge the gap. A short video clip will be shown as well as some additional insights from a survivor who spent 7 years in Shubenacadie residential school.  

About the Speaker:

Michael Loft is an enrolled member and life-long resident of the Mohawk community of Kahnawá:ke. He was born in 1952 in Montreal and attended Kateri Indian Day School in Kahnawá:ke. In the late 1960’s, he worked briefly as a high-steel construction worker before enlisting in the U.S. Marines in 1969. Michael is a Vietnam-era veteran. He married Ruth in 1974 and has 3 children- Tassisiak, Tanaieta & Skahentati, and 4 grandchildren- Tanaieta Jr., Daylon, Sianna & Evangelina.
What is perhaps unique about Michael’s life is how he was able to overcome a challenging upbringing and go on to develop a rewarding career for himself. He accomplished this by working hard in social work at both the front-line level and in academia for almost three decades. Michael’s late father Mitchell, had a role in this success. Although Mitchell attended Indian residential school for 11 continuous years, he had many positive powerful teachings he shared with Michael: respect, responsibility, and cooperation. In the talk today, Michael will discuss how these concepts can form the basis of how reconciliation can be reached between Aboriginal people and Canadians today.

Indigenous Pathways in Education with Dr. Margaret Kovach

5:00PM – 7:00PM, The Newman Centre, 3484 Peel Street

McGill’s Centre for Research on Religion (CREOR) is sponsoring a public lecture by the distinguished First Nations scholar, Professor Margaret Kovach, on the unique contributions of indigenous knowledges and methodologies in post-secondary educational contexts.

About the Speaker:

Margaret Kovach (Sakewew p'sim iskwew) is of Plains Cree and Saulteaux ancestry and a member of Pasqua First Nation located in southern Saskatchewan. She is currently an Associate Professor at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Kovach's work focuses on Indigenous research methodologies and Indigenous post-secondary education. Dr. Kovach's publications have had a significant impact nationally and internationally. Her book, Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts (University of Toronto Press) won the Scholarly Writing Award, Saskatchewan Book Awards.  She also co-authored the SSHRC funded report, Indigenous Presence: Experiencing and Envisioning Indigenous Knowledges within Selected Post-secondary Sites of Education and Social Work (2015). Recently she was the planning co-chair of the 2015 University of Saskatchewan hosted National forum, Building Reconciliation: Universities Answering the TRC's Calls to Action.

In Partnership with: McGill’s Centre for Research on Religion

Indigeneity in the Media: Film Screening and Panel Discussion

7:00PM – 9:00PM, Room S1-3, Stewart Biology Building, 1205 Docteur-Penfield Avenue

The Indigenous Student Alliance will be hosting a screening and panel discussion of the film “Smoke Signals”. The panel will feature Indigenous McGill students. Through this iconic film the panellists will discuss native identity, Indigenous peoples and cultures on the big screen.
Biography: The Indigenous Student Alliance provides integrative support for Indigenous Peoples’ attending McGill University to connect and share our unique, authentic Indigenous ways of knowing with each other and with non-Indigenous peoples within the community. Our vision is to develop and maintain ongoing networking and partnerships with University student groups and organizations through learning – teaching relationships that foster real and meaningful human development and community solidarity.

In partnership with: Indigenous Student Alliance



=>Friday, September 23 2016


2:00PM – 4:00PM, Room 150, Arts Building

Come out for a film screening of “We Were Children” followed by a group discussion!

About the film: “In this feature film, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of two children who were forced to face hardships beyond their years. As young children, Lyna and Glen were taken from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools, where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the effects of which persist in their adult lives. We Were Children gives voice to a national tragedy and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit.” – National Film Board of Canada


4:00PM – 6:00PM, Room 150, Arts Building

Come out for a film screening of “Trick or Treaty” followed by a group discussion!

About this film: “This feature documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance) profiles Indigenous leaders in their quest for justice as they seek to establish dialogue with the Canadian government. By tracing the history of their ancestors since the signing of Treaty No. 9, these leaders aim to raise awareness about issues vital to First Nations in Canada: respect for and protection of their lands and their natural resources, and the right to hunt and fish so that their societies can prosper. In recent years, an awareness-raising movement has been surfacing in First Nations communities. In this powerful documentary, those who refuse to surrender are given a chance to speak out.” – National Film Board of Canada


Contact Information

Allan Vicaire
Social Equity and Diversity Education Office
allan.vicaire [at] mcgill.ca
Office Phone: 
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