First Nations University of Canada celebrates 40 years with eyes on future

Click to play video: 'Celebrating the 40th-anniversary of the First Nations University of Canada'
Celebrating the 40th-anniversary of the First Nations University of Canada
WATCH ABOVE: Over four decades, the First Nations University of Canada has grown from a trailer housing nine students and a teacher, to a national meeting place of indigenous-based education. While acknowledging the past, the 40th anniversary celebration had a keen eye on the future. Blake Lough reports – Sep 12, 2016

The First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) celebrated its 40th anniversary at the main Regina campus Monday with the announcement of a capital campaign to fund additions to campus grounds.

FNUniv president, Mark Dockstator, revealed a series of artist renderings showing a buffalo statue, a large water feature and the addition of stained glass art in the veteran’s memorial teepee.

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He noted that the most important feature would be the construction of a four-foot tall memorial wall dedicated to those who went through the residential school system.

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READ MORE: Truth and Reconciliation: What comes next?

“We want to continue on this design from Douglas Cardinal, building a very small wall around the university which would have all those names of everybody who attended residential schools in Canada,” Dockstator explained.

“[People] can come and remember, they can celebrate, they can mourn. They can do all the things that they need to do so there’s a spot in Canada where their names aren’t forgotten.”

According to Dockstator, the $15-million funding campaign would help cement FNUniv as the “National Gathering Place for Reconciliation”, an initiative supported by National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde.

“I think First Nations University of Canada can be the site and the central place for reconciliation,” Bellegarde said.

40 years of indigenous-based learning

Blair Stonechild has been a part of FNUniv since the very beginning.

He survived the residential school system and was hired in 1976 as the very first faculty member of what was then called the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC).

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“When I started out in 1976, I couldn’t imagine this kind of anniversary,” Stonechild said.

The first year of SIFC began in a trailer with nine students. Stonechild recalled that in the early days of his teaching career, he was learning just as much as those who were in his class.

“We were basically uncovering things, especially in the area of history, which I started out in. Learning about the history of treaties which we never learned about in school.”

Forty years later, Stonechild continues to teach at FNUniv in the department of Indigenous Languages, Arts and Cultures and added that he has no intentions of ended his teaching career any time soon.

“A lot of people said we would never be able to develop a university. So we were able to prove them wrong.”

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