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Members of new Indigenous Advisory Circle announced

Will help guide the University of Manitoba in creating culturally affirming environment

April 8, 2015 — 

Eleven people have been chosen to be the inaugural members of the Indigenous Advisory Circle at the University of Manitoba.

The first members of the Indigenous Advisory Circle include:

  • Camille Callison, Indigenous services/liaison librarian
  • Christine Cyr, director, Aboriginal Student Centre
  • Frank Deer, director of Indigenous initiatives, Faculty of Education
  • Debra Diubaldo, academic advisor/counsellor, Faculty of Social Work
  • Brenda Gunn, assistant professor, Faculty of Law
  • Brenda Lafreniere, counsellor, Access and Aboriginal Focus Programs, Extended Education
  • Margaret Lavallee, Elder-in-residence
  • Norman Meade, Elder-in-residence
  • Ry Moran, director, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Justin Rasmussen, Indigenous graduate student advisor, Aboriginal Student Centre/Faculty of Graduate Studies
  • Wanda Wuttunee, professor, department of Native studies, Faculty of Arts


The Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC) will provide counsel to the Executive Lead for Indigenous Achievement, an office that has the university-wide responsibility for overseeing the strategic directions of the university in matters related to Indigenous activities. The office of Indigenous Achievement also develops initiatives and programs that advance progress on Indigenous achievement throughout our campuses, city, province and country.

The IAC will ensure the University of Manitoba creates an environment where culturally affirming practices are embraced and reflected in all aspects of campus living.

“I’m really looking forward to working with this group. They bring a diversity of views and perspectives on Indigenous education and research,” says Deborah Young, executive lead for Indigenous Achievement. “I am confident with the support of the IAC and the rest of the university – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – we will make great strides towards Indigenizing the U of M.”

Each IAC member will serve a two-year term with an opportunity to renew for another two years.

“For many years, attention to Aboriginal underrepresentation in our university community has been growing in scattered departments and faculties throughout the university,” says Wanda Wuttunee, a professor in Native studies and a member of the new IAC. “I am interested in being part of the next level of expression where a comprehensive plan has been conceived, developed and now needs to be implemented that will make our institution inspiring for all and an inviting place for Aboriginal students and faculty from across this country.”

This advisory circle, Wuttunee says, “is a critical piece of the puzzle for forming partnerships and succeeding at a challenging task. [Members of the Governing Circle] will bring skills and experiences for refining an awesome new view at U of M. There will be healthy discussions of important issues that will help our Executive Lead, Indigenous Achievement have the best information to draw on and drive this effort effectively. It will make a difference.”

Professor Brenda Gunn echoes these sentiments. Gunn, whose research has helped guide the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has extensive knowledge of programs focused on Indigenous student achievement and curriculum development from around the world that includes Indigenous knowledge.

“As the [University of Manitoba’s] strategic plan sets an ambitious goal for promoting Indigenous achievement, the members of the IAC are well positioned to provide advice to Executive Lead on working toward achieving those goals by those who work directly in units, with students and community partners.”

This new, robust governing body is part of the ongoing efforts the University of Manitoba has been committed to over the years in its efforts to make all aspects of our university a more culturally affirming place. Earlier this year, the U of M hosted a successful event with Indigenous and university leaders from across Canada at “Decolonizing the University,” as well as its first-ever Indigenous Awareness Week with a focus on Treaties, Traditional Knowledge, and Elders.

And, prior to the IAC, President David Barnard named Ovide Mercredi as Senior Advisor to the University of Manitoba. Mercredi worked closely with administrators while they developed the university’s new strategic planning framework.


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