Indspire campus visit a soaring success
On Friday, March 23, more than 150 Indigenous students from schools in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and the Northwest Territories convened at the U of M as part of Indspire’s Soaring: Indigenous Youth Empowerment Gathering.
Soaring offers high school students the opportunity to learn about career and post-secondary education options. During their visit to U of M, students attended three of six workshops hosted by various faculties.
“For so many Indigenous students, they are the first in their families to pursue a post-secondary education,” says Dr. Lynn Lavallée, Vice-Provost (Indigenous Engagement) at the U of M. “Being able to host high school students for a day, to show them that university is an option for them and that there is content here that is relevant to them and there are people who are here to support them along their education journeys, is so important.”
At the Faculty of Education, students learned about the history of wampum belts, which were used by the Haudenosaunee people as visual representations of important events in the lives of the people. Afterwards, participants created their own wampum bracelet, in order to highlight significant events in their lives.
“[Making wampums] was kind of a natural fit for me, being Mohawk,” said Dr. Jennifer Brant, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, and co-facilitator of the workshop.
“Here I teach the Indigenous perspectives course, and so part of that is teaching about Treaty relationships, and while the students aren’t actually making a wampum belt, they’re still understanding the history of the belt and the relationships.”
At the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, students engaged in contemporary versions of traditional Indigenous games from across Turtle Island.
The Department of Native Studies challenged students to bring new meaning to materials, such as a section of Treaty No. 1 and a page from the work of U of M alumnae Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Participants created original poems inspired by those texts.
At the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC), students were provided with a brief history of Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge, where the ISC is located. Afterwards, the youth were taught introductory Pow Wow and jigging steps, spent time with Elders and learned more about mentorship and leadership opportunities on campus.
The Indigenous Business Education Partners (IBEP) staff and students facilitated the workshop offered at the I.H. Asper School of Business. During the session, students were tasked with coming up with a creative and innovative product idea and marketing campaign.
At the Faculty of Engineering, students were given a tour of the Civil Engineering Hydrology Lab. Following the tour, they built watercrafts out of tinfoil, and then tested the strength of their creations by seeing how many marbles their watercraft could hold.
“[The workshop] engages the kids in thinking about engineering design, and how to do better designs,” Randy Herrmann, Director of the Engineering Access Program (ENGAP) said. “It’s a very brief introduction to how engineers work.”
The gathering is just one way that the U of M is implementing its strategic goal of fostering K-12 Indigenous student participation in post-secondary education.
Other events during the month that helped facilitate this participation on campus included the Manitoba First Nations Science Fair, which hosted approximately 450 Indigenous students from grades 4-12, as well as the Indigenous Business Case Competition, where 22 Indigenous high school students learned about business, marketing and more. Both of these events were part of Indigenous Awareness Month.
Indspire is a national Indigenous-led registered charity that focuses on Indigenous education. In addition to bursaries and scholarships, they offer career conferences for youth, interactive classroom learning modules, the Indspire Institute and the Indspire Awards.