Lorise Simon has been acting as the interim Indigenous Affairs Coordinator at Mount Allison since February and will continue to do so until the end of June. Simon, who is from the Elsipogtog First Nation, has 10 years’ experience in social work and counselling. She graduated as a mature student from Mt. A and then received her masters in social work and Aboriginal field studies. The Argosy sat down with Simon to discuss her insights into campus efforts towards Indigenization.
What steps could the University be taking to Indigenize campus?
Lorise Simon: “I would like to eventually see more than one position funded, separating a culture coordinator from a recruiter, and [the provision of] funding for researchers and faculty focused on Indigenous issues. Having Mi’kmaq language courses and an Indigenous affairs minor would be great.”
Simon also suggested that, though the Mawita’mkw is an important first step, providing more physical space on campus for Indigenous students and others who wish to learn more about Indigenous cultures is an important consideration. She envisioned a cultural house with a garden that could be used for traditional cooking and medicines, and perhaps even a sweat lodge for ceremonies on campus. Simon said that this space could help Indigenous students transition from their communities to life at Mt. A.
“The transition is often hard because some people haven’t been outside of the community,” she said.
The year of “Indigenous Action” is coming up next year. What differentiates this from “Indigenous Knowing”?
LS: “The knowledge is available, but we need action, like faculty and academic spaces and more people coming here to build together as allies. I would love to see that, to be part of it. Action needs to consider a holistic perspective, not just policies. Listening is one thing, but action is another.”
Simon noted that research in Indigenous studies is an important field that should be introduced at Mt. A and other campuses.
“We are surrounded by Indigenous communities, we are on Indigenous land, and the many Indigenous people who were placed in foster care or adopted in surrounding communities over the years also have stories that need to be told,” she said.
“People are making an effort,” Simon said. “Little things like land acknowledgements before events make a difference, but I would like to see more culture and real information incorporated into history classes and into other departments.”
Simon said the position of the Indigenous affairs coordinator should provide both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students with information and support. She said she hopes the position is continued more permanently and suggests that any students with interest or questions about Indigenous culture visit her office, located on the second floor of the Student Centre.