In the spring of 2021, the remains of 215 children were discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Weeks later, 751 unmarked graves were discovered at the former site of the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Residential school survivors and their families have long known and demanded accountability for those who never came home. The discovery of so many children’s remains seemed to have finally created a moment that awakened many Canadians to the horrors and generational legacy of Canada’s residential school system.
The Faculty of Social Work was already working to follow a path to Reconciliation as part of the University of Calgary’s ii' taa’poh’to’p, Indigenous strategy. However, given social work’s legacy and role in the structures of colonization, the faculty knew that something more was needed.
To that end, the Dean, along with the leadership of the Faculty’s Wellness Elder, Kerrie Moore (Métis/Cree) created the Indigenous Social Work Circle and Lodge in the spring of 2022. The lodge is already providing learning opportunities for the community, faculty, staff, and students about Indigenous histories, cultures, current realities, languages, knowledges, and teachings. In the coming year, the faculty and lodge will work with Elders and the community to create a faculty-specific Indigenous strategy.
“We seek to create decolonizing spaces that align with the University’s ii’ taa’poh’to’p principles honouring Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing, and connecting,” says Dr. Natalie St-Denis, PhD (Acadian/Mi’kmaq and Quebecois/Algonquin) the Lodge Director. “The Lodge will also enhance the learning journey of Indigenous social work students by providing Elder and counselling supports, ceremonies, and cultural activities. Our hope is to create a sense of belonging and community – a family away from home for Indigenous students.”