Faculty members, guest speakers, staff, and students have been working together to prepare a series of events that will be held over four days at KPU campuses in Langley, Surrey, and Richmond.
The events are all part of Indigenization and Decolonization at KPU: A Week of Sharing and Learning, an event series which includes presentations, panels, round tables, webinars, a book reading, documentary screenings, and a nature walk at the Kwantlen First Nation Reserve.
KPU sociology instructor Seema Ahluwalia is the principal organizer of the events, which she says took months to coordinate. She is also the Executive Representative of Decolonization, Reconciliation & Indigenization in the Kwantlen Faculty Association.
“I feel that non-native people, we should be decolonizing. But I feel that only Indigenous people can Indigenize, so for that reason the events are led by Indigenous people and their knowledge and wisdom and their way of imparting it. That is what I really want to focus on,” she says.
On Monday at 1:30 pm, Lilach Marom, an instructor in the department of educational studies at KPU, will be hosting a public symposium along with a screening of All Our Father’s Relations, a documentary that follows two siblings as they explore the relationship between their Chinese father and their Musqueam mother. Film producer Sarah Ling will take part in the symposium to discuss the documentary and the historic relations between First Nations and Chinese people in B.C.
“I think it’s really important, especially because we have such a diverse student body at KPU,” says Marom. “Many of them are international students hoping to stay in this area, [and] a lot of time they are not really familiar with some of the context in Canada and B.C., but they are coming from communities that have experienced marginalization.”
Marom says that when she emigrated to Canada from Israel, she was unaccustomed to practices like territorial and land acknowledgements, so she believes in the importance of sharing the knowledge of First Nations with students who are new to the country.
On Tuesday, presentations on land rights and solidarity with Unis’tot’en will be held at the Gathering Place, hosted by the KPU Indigenous Student Council. There is also a plan to host a talk on land law and Kwantlen First Nation history on the Langley campus.
On Wednesday, a symposium will be held in the Surrey Conference Centre including guest speakers like Sharon Venne, an Indigenous rights attorney and an expert in international law who worked at the U.N., and Russ Diabo, a senior policy advisor to the Assembly of First Nations. Renowned scholar Tamara Starblanket will also be presenting on her book Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State at the Gathering Place at 4:30, after the symposium.
On Thursday in Richmond, Venne and Diabo will both be participating in webinars hosted by Ahluwalia, along with Idle No More founder Sylvia McAdam and University of Alberta professor Janice Makokis. A public education symposium featuring KPU faculty, Tsawwassen First Nation Elder Ruth Adams, and members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and Unis’tot’en Clan will follow in the Melville Centre for Dialogue.
Sarah Strachan, the Kwantlen Student Association’s Indigenous Students Representative and VP of Student Life, as well as a member of the Indigenous Student Council, says that she is looking forward to the upcoming week. It precedes the Revive Your Spirit week events that she plans to facilitate at the Gathering Place.
“It’s going to be a super busy week,” she says. “I’m happy that someone has come up with this entire week of presentations, and I’m looking forward to going to some stuff.”
“I’m just happy that we’re doing this finally, and I can experience my culture,” adds Joseph Thorpe, KSA President and a member of the Indigenous Student Council. “We need to have events that cater to teaching Indigenous culture and tradition. That’s part of reconciliation, having that educational piece—teaching people who we are and the importance of that.”