Indigenous Initiatives

An Indigenous speaker presenting in front of a large building on McGill campus

Monitoring and implementing McGill's Truth and Reconciliation 52 Calls to Action

As a national and global academic leader, McGill University firmly believes it has a crucial role to play in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s Calls to Action. McGill is committed to heeding the call of the TRC by engaging and collaborating with Indigenous communities and their Elders to identify, explore and advance ideas, initiatives and plans that will embed Indigeneity in the life and activities of the University while seeking to enhance the presence and success of Indigenous students, faculty and staff at McGill.

To this end, the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) struck a Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education which released a final report in 2018 with fifty-two specific Calls to Action.  This included one call for the creation of a central administrative unit to guide Indigenous strategies and initiatives throughout the University, and more importantly, act as steward of an overarching vision.  This is how the Indigenous Initiatives unit came to be.

This web site is intended as a central information hub pertaining to the different Indigenous projects and programs throughout the University including the work of Indigenous Initiatives.  The development of the web site content was guided and supervised by the Indigenous staff in the Indigenous Initiatives Unit (Office of the Provost & Vice Principal (Academic)).  As an iterative process, we welcome suggestions and comments to further improve the web site.

Roles & Responsibilities

While Indigenous Initiatives was officially tasked with the initiation of the implementation of the 52 Calls to Action from the Final Report of the Provost Task Force, it has become evident since its inception that it is being called to play a much broader role.  As the institutional steward of McGill’s vision for Indigeneity, Indigenous Initiatives plays a multi-layered role including the strengthening of awareness and alignment of various Indigenous initiatives touching all dimensions of McGill’s mission as a post-secondary institution.

In addition to its core role in supporting Indigenous student and faculty success, and research-based on reciprocity, the unit ensures that Indigeneity is embedded in all facets of university life such as teaching and learning, curricular developments, governance, student life, faculty recruitment and development, human resources, campus space and planning, and research and innovation. Indigenous Initiatives supports the effectiveness of efforts in all these areas through coordination, guidance and support by Indigenous advisors, liaising with the University’s central senior administration, and by cultivating sustained and meaningful relationships with Indigenous community leaders and members.


Flagship Initiatives and Projects

Driving and Supporting Implementation of Calls to Action 

In response to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action, the Office of the Provost created a unit known as Indigenous Initiatives. One of the unit's roles is to implement and track the Calls to Action from the 2017 Final Report of the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education.

The 2017 Task Force report has set out 52 Calls to Action aimed at increasing university access for Indigenous peoples, improving the experiences of Indigenous students, faculty, and staff, and further developing McGill’s relationships with communities in Quebec. One of Indigenous Initiatives' flagship projects is to monitor how different faculties, departments, and units across the university are implementing the Calls to Action. As part of this project, Indigenous Initiatives has created a webpage where users can explore the status of each Call to Action, and read about the progress being made in different areas.

First Peoples' House 

A row of smiling students and staff from the First Peoples' House with a fence and a field in the background

The First Peoples' House (FPH) is at the core of Indigenous student support and wellness at McGill. It provides a space for Indigenous students to connect with each other, and it offers a variety of events and cultural programming.

Visit the First Peoples' House website to learn more about the services it offers.

Indigenous Education

Students stand outdoors in a circle and hold hands as part of an activity at McGillThe Indigenous Education Program provides Indigenous-specific programming, as well as opportunities for connecting the McGill community. The IEP’s goals are to increase knowledge of Indigenous history and current issues amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples at McGill. It also seeks to integrate Indigenous history, culture and perspectives into existing academic curricula and campus life.

The IEP offers a vast array of events throughout the school year, where McGill students, staff, and faculty can come together and build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. These events include an annual Indigenous Awareness Week, an Indigenous Educational Series, training workshops and local community-based programming.

For more information contact the Indigenous Initiatives unit at indigenousinitiatives [at] mcgill.ca.

Physical Representation

Hochelaga Rock

The Hochelaga rock on McGill campus. It is a large grey rock with a plaque that sits on the grass under a tree.

The Hochelaga Rock is an enduring historical marker of Indigenous history and settler-Indigenous people’s interactions on the island of Montreal and its hinterland. The Rock marks the historical ties and use of the land by Indigenous peoples. 

Through a collaboration between Indigenous Initiatives and the Campus Planning and Development Office (CPDO), the Hochelaga Rock was relocated to a more prominent site on the lower campus of McGill in the summer of 2016. The Provost’s Task Force was publicly launched with a ceremony at this site on September 22, 2016. On June 21, 2017, National Indigenous Peoples' Day, there was a ceremony at the Hochelaga Rock to mark the submission of the Task Force Final Report on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education. 

Call to Action #18 discusses the design of the landscape around the Hochelaga Rock. The CPDO included this Call to Action in the campus Master Plan (2019). Hochelaga Rock has been identified as a key element of Indigenous representation on campus in line with the Task Force report.

Learn more about physical representation on the Calls to Action page.

Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag

A close-up of the Hiawatha Wampum Belt flag flying on McGill Campus.

In recognition of the importance of building respectful and reciprocal relations with Indigenous nations, the Task Force called on McGill to: 

  • as of June 2018, replace the Martlet flag, which flies from the Arts building, by the Iroquois “Hiawatha Belt” flag (symbolic of unity among the Haudenosaunee) for one week beginning on National Indigenous Peoples' Day (June 21st); 
  • on a rotating basis every year, fly the flag of each First Nation in Quebec; and 
  • place a permanent Hiawatha Belt flag at the recently relocated Hochelaga Rock on the lower campus. 

Flying the Hiawatha Wampum Flag, as well as the flags of other Indigenous nations in Quebec, on National Indigenous Peoples' Day and on the day of McGill's Pow Wow is now an established and normalized practice as a symbolic gesture to promote reconciliation. 

Read a McGill Reporter article about the flag raising ceremony.

Learn more about physical representation on the Calls to Action page.

Watch the 2021 flag-raising ceremony here:

McGill Master Plan

McGill's Master Plan was adopted by the Board of Governors in 2019. It establishes the principled framework to ensure that the university’s physical resources help further McGill’s priorities and mission.

A bird's eye view of McGill University in the autumn, with Mont Royal in the background.

Indigenous representation is an important part of the Master Plan. McGill acknowledges that the downtown campus is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg nations. It is the intention of the plan to honour, recognize and respect these nations, particularly the Kanien’kehá:ka, as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which the campus is located. The Master Plan supports McGill in building relationships and collaborating with communities, and provising suitable cultural space on campus for Indigenous students, staff and faculty.

Please visit the Indigenous Representation section in McGill’s Master Plan to learn more.

Working Group on Indigeneity in Infrastructure Planning (WGIIPD)

A pencil sits on a planning document which has numbers and lines printed on it.

Both the 2017 Final Report of the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education and the 2019 McGill Master Plan have addressed the need and opportunity for Indigenous representation on campus. 

The Working Group is tasked with the formulation of guiding principles and best practices to address these imperatives in the context of the large-scale campus development and re-development activities that will take place over the coming years. Such recommendations should reflect feasibility in terms of implementation and long-term sustainability.

Areas of focus include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • mechanisms for ensuring the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives across planning processes;
  • criteria for identifying opportunities for Indigenous representation in the design, use and naming of physical spaces;
  • means of engaging Indigenous communities and service providers in campus planning.

In fulfilling this mandate, the Working Group will consult broadly across the University community and will also engage local Indigenous communities and draw from the experiences and knowledge in this regard of peer institutions across North America. The Working Group will be guided in its task by the:

The Working Group on Indigeneity in Infrastructure Planning and Development will submit its final report to the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) and the Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) by 31 March 2021.

In February 2021, McGill held a roundtable event with other Canadian universities to complement the Working Group's discussions. The Working Group heard presentations from Queen's University, Western University, and the University of Toronto.

New Vic Project

The New Vic Project plans to transform a portion of the site of the former Royal Victoria Hospital into a hub for innovation in sustainability, education, and public policy. McGill is exploring ways in which Indigenous representation can be part of the New Vic Project.

For more information, please visit the New Vic Project website.

Sustainable Procurement

Facilitating Transactions for McGill Partnerships with Indigenous Partners

Vision:

In keeping with McGill University’s priority to support reconciliation, facilitate and promote University partnerships with indigenous businesses and community members in order to contribute to the economic development of indigenous communities.

Project Description:

As McGill University seeks to build long-term relationships with indigenous community members and businesses, this project aims to restore, promote, and facilitate the collaboration between McGill University and Indigenous partners by adapting related administrative processes to accommodate the unique circumstances of indigenous partners. This also involves building capacity for compliance with these processes among University community members and indigenous collaborators (existing and potential).

Project Objectives:

  • Identify and define the different categories of indigenous community members and businesses (i.e. Lecturers, Presenters, Supplier of goods and services, etc.)
  • Identify and adapt processes for each category of indigenous community members and businesses, as deemed relevant.
  • Develop and communicate guidelines for collaborating with Indigenous community members and businesses.
  • In compliance with McGill’s existing policies and governmental regulatory requirements, streamline, when feasible, the remuneration/payment processes in order to accelerate payment and enable the monitoring of payment.
  • Obtain tangible commitments from key stakeholders (HR, Financial Services, Procurement Services) as well as other process owners, faculties, units and senior administrators of the University, where relevant,  to communicate, build capacity among University community members , in support of indigenous community members and businesses.
  • In collaboration with Indigenous Initiatives, develop a communication plan to promote this initiative. 

Expected outputs:

  • Institutional Guidelines (including commitments / raising awareness for all McGill community members
  • Training material (presentation) to be given to Procurement Services / HR / Financial Services Staff and other McGill staff.
  • Outreach to existing and potential Indigenous partners. 

Bicentennial

For the last 200 years, McGill University has unequivocally benefited from the dispossession of Indigenous lands and resources in its journey to becoming the world-class institution it is today.  In crossing the threshold into its 3rd century of existence, McGill University very earnestly seeks in the spirit of Truth & Reconciliation to renew relationships with Indigenous peoples, in particular the local Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Nation as well as the ten other nations across the landmass comprising what is now the Province of Quebec.  Moving forward together is required in addressing the challenges and complexities of the 21st century.

Office of the Provost- Indigenous Initiatives (OPII) is leading the planning and programming of Indigenous-related events and projects for the Bicentennial.  In alignment with the Bicentennial’s goals, the intended Indigenous components include: 

  • Cultural inclusion and visibility in the launch day programming
  • Acknowledging the traditional territories of McGill’s physical footprints
  • An overview of the University’s history of interaction with Indigenous peoples
  • Highlighting the Indigenous community bonds McGill has made and is making
  • To celebrate the growing numbers of Indigenous scholars, including a Homecoming event to honor Indigenous alumni and acknowledge their contributions
  • Highlighting how Indigenous research methodologies and ethics are being integrated
  • Indigenous place-remaking in McGill’s third century: Indigeneity in infrastructure projects, including Bicentennial sculpture; growing the Indigenous Studies Program from a Minor into an Institute
  • Visioning the growth of Indigenous people at McGill in the next 50 years with a goal to reach proportional representation at the university as is in Canada (presently 4.9%)

Annual Events

National Indigenous Peoples' Day (June 21)

The Hiawatha Wampum Belt flag flying from the Arts Building on McGill University's downtown campus.

June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples' Day. Since June 2018, McGill has flown the Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag from the McCall MacBain Arts Building to recognize this day. The McGill Reporter has written articles about the first flag raising and about the 2020 flag raising

A framed Hiawatha Wampum Belt sits in front of a garden at McGill.

As the McGill Reporter writes, "The flag is a centuries-old symbol marking unity and peace between the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk nations." For more information about the Hiawatha Wampum Belt, visit the Onondaga Nation's webpage.

The Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education included flying the Hiawatha Wampum Belt at McGill in one of the Calls to Action in the 2017 final report. 

Watch the 2021 flag-raising ceremony here:

Watch the 2022 flag-raising ceremony here:

Indigenous Awareness Weeks

Indigenous Awareness Weeks offer students, staff and faculty the opportunity to learn about Indigenous cultures, histories, and communities, promoting greater knowledge and understanding about Indigenous peoples in Canada. They aim to raise awareness and initiate an exchange of ideas on First Nations, Métis and Inuit topics within the McGill community.

The poster for the 9th Annual Indigenous Awareness Weeks, featuring a symbolic drawing of three people whose braids connect.

Indigenous Awareness Weeks provide a space to amplify Indigenous voices and perspectives on campus. Since 2011, invited guests have included academics, community members, Elders, and students. Topics have included health, identity, language revitalization, the Indian Act, Residential Schools, Indigenous legal traditions, Canadian policies, education, child welfare, and Indigenous ways of knowing.

The 2022 Indigenous Awareness Weeks are underway (September 19th - September 30th)! View the event calendar here.

View the 2021 Indigenous Awareness Weeks page.

Pow Wow

A female fancy shawl dancer in multi-coloured regalia performs at the McGill Pow Wow.

As part of Indigenous Awareness Week each year, the First Peoples’ House holds a Pow Wow on McGill University campus to celebrate its Indigenous students and their diverse cultures. The Pow Wow features activities such as traditional dancing and drumming. In addition to watching performances, visitors can browse artisan vendors, learn about student groups, and connect with Indigenous organizations.

The 2022 McGill Powwow will take place on McGill's lower campus on Friday, September 23rd. We hope to see you there!

Watch "Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of McGill’s Pow Wow: Reflections with Ellen Gabriel and others":

Watch the 2020 Virtual Pow Wow:

 

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

80. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

-Call to Action 80 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action

September 30th is the National  Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a federal statutory holiday which gives the public a chance to recognize and commemorate the intergenerational harm that residential schools have caused to Indigenous families and communities, and to honour those who have been affected by this injustice.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation also coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which invites people in Canada to wear orange shirts to honour the survivors of residential schools.

View the 2021 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation webpage.

Institutional Partnerships

Vancouver Island University

Read the article: Vancouver Island University and McGill Partner to Create Learning and Research Opportunities in Indigenous Studies

"Vancouver Island University and McGill University sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore how the institutions can work together to engage in research and academic exchanges for faculty and students in Indigenous education and Indigenous studies."

Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Art, Architecture and Traditional Knowledge

Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit is a travelling exhibition retracing the steps of the art integration process at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) following a national art competition open to Inuit artists across Inuit Nunangat.

McGill is a proud partner of the exhibition and will host it in the Macdonald-Harrington Building from September 8th to October 25th, 2022. For more information on the exhibition's installation at McGill, please visit the Ajuinnata at McGill landing page.

A poster for the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit art exhibition, featuring the Canadian High Arctic Research Station and the title of the event.

Other Partnerships

Visit the Partnerships Page to see Community-based Projects and a list of Partners who make these projects a reality. 

 

Meet the Office of the Associate Provost (Indigenous Initiatives) Team

Aneeka Anderson

Aneeka Anderson, shown smiling

Communications Assistant, Indigenous Initiatives

Aneeka Anderson (she/her) is Inuk from Ottawa, Ontario. Her biological family originates from Pangnirtung, Nunavut. In May 2022, Aneeka graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University, double majoring in Anthropology and Political Science and minoring in Canadian Ethnic and Racial Studies. In her final year of studies, Aneeka joined the Indigenous Initiatives unit as a Communications Assistant. She is continuing this work as the lead coordinator of various annual and special projects, including the Indigenous Awareness Weeks and the Ajuinnata at McGill Inuit event series taking place from September 8 - October 25, 2022. 

Olivia Bornyi

Olivia Bornyi, a woman with dark, medium length hair

Project and Research Assistant, Indigenous Initiatives

Olivia Bornyi (she/her) is currently pursuing a Joint Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Development Studies at McGill University. She joined the Indigenous Initiatives unit this past summer as a Project and Research Assistant. Olivia is working to update the status of McGill’s 52 Calls to Action, coordinating Indigenous Awareness Weeks, and the Ajuinnata at McGill event series. Outside of work, she loves contributing to student experiences and participating in the many activities that McGill has to offer.

Rosemary Cooke

Rosemary Cooke, shown smiling

Administration & Finance Officer, Indigenous Initiatives

Rosemary Cooke is a McGill retiree who has returned to help the Indigenous Initiatives Unit with administrative and financial management on a temporary basis. She worked at McGill for 27 years in an administrative capacity with different units/faculties, including Graduate Studies, VP Research, and the Office of Technology Transfer. Rosemary retired in January 2020, after eight years, as the Director of Administration for the Faculty of Dentistry. She was a member of Senate for six years and has sat on various University committees. Her background is in finance and law.


Contact Us:

Indigenous Initiatives: indigenousinitiatives [at] mcgill.ca

Contact information for Indigenous Units at McGill: Directory


Meet the Indigenous Faculty and Staff at McGill

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