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Indigenous Studies

A group of students in an indigenous canoe paddling along the Otonabee river
Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies

Indigenous Studies

Trent Welcomes First Group of Cree Youth with Indigenous Youth in Transition Program

Partnership between Trent and Katimavik supports reconciliation and Indigenous youth programming

"Trent is amazing. I've never seen a school that is so respectful of First Nations culture," said Damian Moar, one of eight Cree youth from the region east of James Bay who are participating in Katimavik's Indigenous Youth In Transition (IYIT) program, in partnership with Trent University.

The partnership, announced in March 2017, brings together the knowledge of the Trent academic community with the development opportunities offered through Katimavik. Through the IYIT program, Indigenous youth cultivate the skills and knowledge to overcome barriers to employment and to socially participate in their communities.

Since arriving in August, the group has been engaged in volunteer placements with organizations around Peterborough, such as the Humane Society, the Youth Emergency Shelter and GreenUp. In September, they participated in Trent's Indigenous student orientation and began a one-semester course, Foundations of Indigenous Learning (INDG1011H).

Phil Abbott, a Ph.D. candidate in Trent's Indigenous Studies program, is house leader for the group, which will live in a residence near Traill College until their program ends in December. He explains that, in addition to the volunteer placements and course work, Trent faculty have developed a curriculum so participants can build skills they can take back to their communities.

"The exposure to the Trent community and courses available here opens the door for the participants to potentially continue post-secondary studies," Mr. Abbott said.

Mr. Moar, who has been volunteering as fire keeper at the First Peoples House of Learning and as an assistant to the project development coordinator at the Canadian Canoe Museum, says the experience has been "a big culture shock" for the group, "but in a good way."

"It's a different work environment," he explains, " because we don't have organizations like this where we come from. Everybody is enjoying their experiences, new and different. We came here to learn, not just about the Peterborough area, but also about ourselves."

For example, Mr. Moar said that the closeness of Trent to the culture of the Indigenous people in this area, is helping him to adjust. "I started a healing process, emotionally and spiritually," he said. "We don't practice native culture back home and there are a lot of youth who are missing out on the experience and the healing that comes with it. I would like to bring this aspect back home for youth who are troubled."

"A core focus of Katimavik is around working towards reconciliation," Mr. Abbott said. "The fact that Trent is partnering with Katimavik says a lot about the willingness to stride towards reconciliation."

Mr. Moar, who hails from Mistissini in northern Quebec, agrees. "I think other colleges and universities should follow Trent's example."

Posted on September 13, 2017