The University of Saskatchewan is aiming to “Indigenize” their campus and operations while also becoming the university the world needs.
Leaders at the U of S unveiled the university’s new seven-year strategic plan Wednesday afternoon, which will focus on integrating Indigenous knowledge and reconciliation goals throughout campus.
It also aims to increase collaboration among departments for research, local community impacts and improving academic rankings.
U of S President Peter Stoicheff said the university will be devoting a significant percentage of funds towards Indigenization, which will include a push to increase Indigenous student enrollment and hiring of more Indigenous staff.
“(We want to be) at least at where the census says the province is (for Indigenous population) at 15 or 16 per cent, which is what we’re very close to now,” he said.
There will also be a focus on increasing the visibility of Indigenous culture on campus, including the addition of Cree and Michif translations on signage and more works by Indigenous artists.
One of those projects, a mural by Métis artist Christi Belcourt and Anishinaabe artist Isaac Murdock in the arts tunnel connecting the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre to Health Sciences building, was unveiled to the public Wednesday.
Stoicheff said it’s important for the university to work on Indigenous integration.
“There are many post-secondary institutions across this country that are working on reconciliation,” he said. “But here in this province, we have to be a leader.”
Jacqueline Ottmann, vice-provost of Indigenous engagement, said the weaving of Indigenization into the university’s strategic plan was a key step in moving the U of S forward.
“Today we have something we can truly be proud of,” she said.
She noted the university has already made significant strides from when she first arrived as a student in 1983, going from “a handful” of Indigenous students and staff to over 3,000 students and 50 faculty members.
Ottmann added talk at the university surrounding Indigenous issues has changed.
“We are well past those conversations of ‘why are we doing this?’ but actually engaged in conversations of ‘how do we do this better?'” she said.
She said the results of the focus will be an increase in the quality of “authentic Indigenous content” in curriculum, and policies that better support Indigenous members of the university community.
The ceremony Wednesday was steeped in Indigenous tradition, beginning with a prayer led by Métis elder Norman Fleury and concluding with he and Ottmann presenting sashes and blankets to Stoicheff and Debra Pozega Osburn, vice president of university relations.