Indigenous Social Enterprise student calls for more support at the EDC

By Michelle Karlenzig

After being triggered in class and left without emotional support, a student at RRC Exchange District Campus is hoping for changes in the Indigenous Center.

Crystal Marsden, a student in the Indigenous Social Enterprise Program, said she felt emotionally triggered by a disturbing video in class and there was no Indigenous Elder or staff member available for support.

RRC student Crystal Marsden performs a traditional smudge ceremony in the Indigenous Centre at the Exchange District Campus.

“I feel overwhelmed because I don’t feel supported,” Mardsen said. “It’s ironic that I’m in a program that teaches building and supporting Indigenous communities, but we have a need for support here ourselves.”

The RRC Students’ Association and Indigenous Student Supports and Community Relations worked together to organize Truth and Reconciliation Week.

Carla Kemach, Manager of RRC’s Truth and Reconciliation and Community Engagement, said that the college provides opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students as well as RRC staff to engage.

“We hope that this week instills pride and courage in our Indigenous students, so they can reclaim their culture and identity, and for others to stand proud of their identity,” Kemach said.

A mix of sage, tobacco, and other traditional Indigenous herbal medicines are used in these ceremonies. Indigenous culture has used smudging for centuries to purify the body, energy, and aura.

The majority of events are scheduled at Notre Dame Campus, including an Indigenous Market and guest speaker Travis Bighetty from Bear Clan Patrol Inc.

Mardsen feels NDC has more Indigenous support, and the EDC is left behind.

“They have more space and staff at Notre Dame. I’ve overheard other Indigenous students say they feel sorry for the people here,” Marsden said. “I can see how it would discourage students and push them to drop out.”

Mardsen hopes to talk with Indigenous Elders at school to discuss making improvements to the support system at the EDC.

“For me, Truth and Reconciliation is the truth of history and being given the same resources and opportunities as everybody.”

RRC has repositioned 12 new jobs to support Indigenous student achievement. Over the next year, staff and instructors will participate in training sessions that will assist them to embed the “Calls to Action” into their curriculum.

“Policy development is also a main focus, so we can define and follow a guide for what Indigenous achievement means, looks like, and how we get there,” Kematch said.

Truth and Reconciliation Week at RRC begins on “Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters” and finishes on “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Honouring and Awareness Day.”

Head to rrc.ca/indigenous for a full list of Truth and Reconciliation Week events.