St. Lawrence College has nearly 500 Native American students registered at its three campuses, and continues its reconciliation efforts through a rebranding and renaming initiative.
Through these efforts, the university aims to ensure that indigenous forms and knowledge are integrated into its culture and services.
Helena Neveu has been on St. Lawrence College’s Indian and Student Affairs Team working with the school and Indian students since 2014. Earlier this month, she became the university’s keeper of knowledge and, following their guidance, the Cornwall, Brockville and Kingston campuses have renamed their Eagle’s Nest Indian Center the Waasaabiidaasamose Indian Center.
This name is close to home for Neveu because it is part of her spiritual name in the Ojibwe language.
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“For 25 years I have had that name, Waasaabiidaasamose, and I really like it. Get together and walk away. Bringing it back to school is a real honor, ”says Neveu.
She says the meaning “translates to ‘woman walks away’ and also translates to ‘go away in a snowstorm.'”
The center has Indigenous student advisers who help Indigenous students navigate their studies and experiences in St. Lawrence, foster a greater appreciation of Indigenous culture, and offer students of all backgrounds a place to socialize.
Through Neveu, indigenous students can find methods to achieve well-being, with mental, physical and spiritual support. And that’s what the name Waasaabiidaasamose promotes.
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“I am an Anishinaabe woman and we work through the wheel of medicine. So what matters most to me is well-being, ”says Neveu.
St. Lawrence College says it is committed to taking reconciliation seriously with this name change. President Glenn Vollebregt said it is important that Canada be held accountable for its treatment of indigenous peoples.
“Our commitment to truth and reconciliation and the advancement of indigenous forms of knowledge while being in St. Lawerence, on our Kingston, Cornwall, Brockville campus, is one of our priorities,” says Vollebregt.
While students can refer to the center by its new name from now on, he says an official reopening event is in the works for when the COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
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