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Celebrating Indigenous Identity

January is a time to reflect on what we've accomplished and to dream big for the coming year. When we look back at the University of Manitoba's efforts to advance Indigenous engagement and inclusion, there is much to celebrate and even more to look forward to.

The year 2016 saw the launch of the Master of Social Work based in Indigenous Knowledges Program, which recognizes the unique circumstances of Indigenous clients and communities and the need to develop social workers whose skills are rooted in Indigenous knowledges and worldviews. Robson Hall, the U of M's Faculty of Law, committed to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 28, which calls on law schools to require all students to take courses in Aboriginal people and the law.
The Faculty of Education has engaged all of its teacher candidates, their cooperating teachers, and faculty advisers in truth and reconciliation workshops.

The U of M has also earmarked considerable funds to support Indigenous research and initiatives. An Indigenous Scholars Fund was created to support the hiring of six Indigenous scholars across campus. This is especially exciting for faculties, such as Science or Agriculture and Food Sciences, where Indigenous scholars are traditionally underrepresented. The recruitment of these scholars is underway. 

Another $750,000 has been allocated for the Indigenous Initiatives Fund, which was created to support projects that focus on supporting the university's journey toward including Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in teaching, research and service. More than 50 units across the university put in project proposals ? the successful applicants will be announced mid-January. 

In addition, the U of M continues to improve services for Indigenous students, including new awards, counselling, cultural supports, tutoring, mentoring opportunities, and events such as Indigenous Orientation Week and Indigenous Awareness Week.

These are just a handful of examples of what is being done to advance Indigenous achievement at the U of M. As we continue to build on this work over the next calendar year it is important to recognize and affirm why this work is carried out: to support students in their academic journeys. At the beginning of the fall semester, several Indigenous students volunteered to tell other students about self-declaration. The students shared messages by completing the sentence "I declare Indigenous because..."

Some of the messages included: I declare Indigenous because?
"It is my history."
"It is my right."
"I love my culture."
"I never had the chance before and now not only do I get to declare it with pride, but my children can too!"
"I want to inspire the next generation of Indigenous students."

We must continue to ensure that Indigenous students feel as though they are part of a university that promotes research and learning that reflects the history and contemporary context of Indigenous peoples. If we can do that, we will help them create a stronger and healthier future for generations to come.

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