Over the past several months, much conversation, thought and reflection about Indigenous identity has occurred. Discussions have happened among members of the Indigenous community at Memorial, with Indigenous leaders within the province, and with support of national expertise.
Catharyn Andersen, Memorial’s vice-president, Indigenous, and her team played a critical role in moving this discussion forward and leading this important work for the Memorial community. As Board chair and Memorial’s president, we want to thank Vice-president Andersen for her leadership and for guiding us, as well as the other board members, on our learning journey.
It is clear to us that verification of a person’s Indigenous identity is important to the university. We are committed to engaging on the issue with the goal of reaching a clearer understanding of what this means for Memorial and its community members.
How we most appropriately engage on this issue is an important question. Since the Board of Regents committed to establishing a round table in mid-March, each of the many conversations that took place provided important input into how we should proceed.
Since mid-March, Memorial engaged with the leaders of Indigenous groups within the province directly. We consulted with the Honourable Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada about the options to move forward. We also listened to Indigenous students, faculty and staff as they came together. We are grateful for each and every person who weighed in on this topic.
All of these conversations led the Board of Regents and Memorial’s administration to the decision to change from the idea of a round table. Instead, we will be engaging independent external Indigenous resources as an important component in moving forward.
We will look to those independent external resources, in consultation with members of Indigenous communities, including students, to help shape the format and process of what the engagement on verification of Indigenous identity looks like for Memorial. Our desired outcome will be creating a clear mechanism that will purposefully and respectfully verify Indigenous identity.
The next step will be to reach out to experts in this field and determine what external resources are best suited to lead this important engagement. This process will include opportunities for Indigenous people, from within and outside our university community, to be heard. There are still many important, difficult and necessary conversations to come as we work towards a better understanding and meaningful actions. We want to thank the university community for its understanding as we take the time to thoughtfully consider these next steps.