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October 2021 ARDEI Update

25 January 2022

By ARDEI Committee member, Cicely Belle Blain (UWC Maastricht, 2010-2012). 

For the first time, many Canadian provinces have just observed their first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on 30 September. 30 September has long been marked as Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day was first established as an observance in 2013, as part of an effort to promote awareness and education of the residential school system and the impact it has had on Indigenous communities for over a century. The impact of the residential school system has been recognized as a cultural genocide and continues to this day.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was formed in 2008 and in 2015 published a report with 94 calls to action, demanding justice, reconciliation and reparations. Some of these demands include:

  1. Reduce the number of Aboriginal children in care by providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together
  2. The Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, andMétis children in Catholic-run residential schools. 
  3. Enact an Aboriginal Languages Act to preserve Aboriginal languages
  4. Increase Aboriginal representation in media
  5. Newcomers to Canada swear an oath to faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples

Read all 94 calls to action here.

This is an issue that should be of utmost importance to the United World College movement, and will be one of the issues that we at the ARDEI Committee will be working on bringing to the forefront of the UWC movements’ thinking, actions and culture. As we unite students from across the world with the ultimate goal of peace, this process must include truth, reconciliation and decolonization. Many UWC campuses are situated on stolen Indigenous land. While in some places treaties exist to acknowledge a relationship between the colonial government and respective Indigenous bands, a lot of the land is unceded. For example, where I live in British Columbia, the territories are unceded, meaning First Nations people never ceded or legally signed away their lands to the Crown or to Canada. This includes Pearson College UWC, which is situated on the lands of the Scia'new First Nation. 

Pearson College UWC has created a Reconciliation Action Plan to strengthen relations with the Scia'new First Nation and improve the experiences of Indigenous students on campus. How about other campuses?

  • UWC-USA is built on the lands of the Pueblos and Jicarilla Apache people
  • UWC Costa Rica is based on the lands of the Huetar-speaking people
  • Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA  is situated on land once inhabited by the Khoisan people

Can you find more?

If you are curious about whose lands you are living on or travelling to, Native Land is an amazing resource. Check it out here.

How can the UWC movement recognize Indigenous communities and commit to decolonization?

  1. Teach Indigenous languages on campus
  2. Acknowledge the land and host nations online, on campus and before events
  3. Develop deep and meaningful connections with local Indigenous communities
  4. Teach Indigenous history and de-centre Eurocentric history
  5. Increase representation of Indigenous students receiving scholarships, especially from settler-colonial countries like Canada, Australia and the USA
  6. Support grassroots Indigenous-led movements like #IdleNoMore and #LandBack