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Making space

Three projects 'strong, visual signifiers' of Indigenous presence at Memorial

Campus and Community

By Joanne Harris

Indigenization is a process whereby Indigenous people bring Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing into spaces that are not designed for those ways.

Indigenization must be led by Indigenous Peoples, and it must be supported by non-Indigenous people through diverse actions such as decolonizing, truth-telling, building capacity and reconciliation.

The Strategic Framework for Indigenization calls upon the university to “make space, both literally and figuratively,” for Indigenous Peoples and our ways of knowing being and doing.

The Office of Indigenous Affairs is pleased to share with the Memorial community three projects that accomplish just that.

Elders’ parking space

The first project, supported by Facilities Management, is the creation of the elders’ parking spaces at Juniper House.

The dedicated spaces are clearly marked with signs. These spaces ensure that when Indigenous elders visit campus, they have a dedicated space to park that is in close proximity to the Indigenous Student Resource Centre, located in Juniper House.

This step acknowledges and demonstrates respect for the integral role that Indigenous elders play in the life of the campus, especially for Indigenous students.

Furthermore, it helps to shift expectations within the broader community around who belongs on university campuses.

Indigenous garden

The second project is the planting of the garden beds that surround the armillary sphere and sundial in the courtyard between the Science, Arts and Administration, and Math buildings.

A group of people gardening in front of a large sun dial.
Planting the Indigenous garden in June 2023.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Through the efforts of the Memorial Beautification Committee, flowers and juniper bushes were planted in the space, with blooms reminiscent of the colours of the berries in the Juniper House logo planted in each section of the garden.

In the coming years, we will work to add medicinal plants significant to the Indigenous Peoples in the province.

This garden creates space for Indigenous knowledge, and it is a beautiful metaphor for indigenization.

It is a slow and gradual process, requiring care, consideration and learning.

Rose garden mural

The final project is Canvas of Belonging: An Indigenous Art Journey, the art installation on the wall in the rose garden between the Science, Math and School of Music buildings.

A number of young people paint a mural on a long wall.
Members of the Memorial University community create the mural in the rose garden.
Photo: Kristine Breen

It is the result of a collective process: led by Cree student and artist Holly Star Tait, collaboratively designed by Indigenous students and painted in unity with the Memorial community.

This project was a long time in the making, finally answering a 2017 call for action in a Gazette op-ed that stated: “if our physical bodies are not present, then we cease to be present. There are no strong visual signifiers indicating that Memorial is an institution operating on the ancestral homeland of the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, Innu and Inuit.”

Six years later, as a result of our involvement with the Beautification Committee, we now have a moving piece of public art that explores our ancestral and cultural connection with nature and reflects the richness of our cultures and traditions.

Forum taking place Nov. 9-10

Actionable change comes through incremental steps and we in the Office of Indigenous Affairs are so proud of these recent developments.

Each project acts as a visual representation of Memorial University’s responsibility in advancing reconciliation, and each project manifests the healthy collaborations that the Office of Indigenous Affairs has been fortunate to have experienced in this journey.

Learn more about these projects and other successful partnerships with the Office of Indigenous Affairs through Forum on Indigenization and Reconciliation (FIRM) at Memorial, happening this week from Nov. 9-10.


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