What I learned during Indigenous Awareness Week

As Indigenous Awareness Week comes to a close, I thought it might be worthwhile to reflect on what I and some of my peers learned. It’s so easy to go out to an event, listen to what was said, then forget all about it a day later. IAW was not intended to be one week of events to remind people that Indigenous issues exist, but was rather an opportunity for the Queen’s community to start a long-lasting dialogue about the realities that Indigenous peoples face in Canada and how Indigenous peoples and allies can work together to create a better future for all people in this country. So, without further ado, here are some of the things that were brought to my attention during IAW.

Apologies mean nothing without future action.

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of the federal government for the implementation of residential schools. This apology was long overdue, but it did help pave the way for the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, that doesn’t mean our work is done. The government’s apology was the start of a long journey to repair its relationship with Indigenous peoples, a journey that we are still on. There are still Indigenous people in this country without clean water, proper healthcare, or access to education. Words are not enough to fix these realities; we need action. Queen’s has a TRC task force, which will be releasing its final report on March 21.

The history of colonialism is much more complicated than what you learn in school.

QNSA put on a massive KAIROS blanket exercise in order to educate the Queen’s community on the history of colonialism in an interactive manner. The first time I did the exercise, I learned so many new things that I was never taught in school. For example, I did not know that Indigenous women who married non-Indigenous men lost their status and that non-Indigenous women who married Indigenous men could gain it. I didn’t know that if an Indigenous person were to become a doctor or a lawyer that he or she could not return to their communities to help. The history of colonialism is much deeper than any history textbook can outline, and the legacy is still pervasive today. More people should be educated on the true legacy of colonialism in Canada and the blanket exercise is a great way to do so. If you are interested in holding the exercise in one of your classes, please contact Four Directions.

Stereotypes hinder us from moving forward.

Often times, when I talk about the need to establish better relationships with Indigenous communities, I am often met with skepticism. Some common rebuttals I have heard from those who disagree with me are, “The natives don’t want to work,” or “They’re all drunks,” or “None of them pay any taxes, so why should we help them?” These statements, which are just a sampling of some of the outlandish stereotypes that are applied to Indigenous peoples, are what hinders us from making progress. Applying these broad, uninformed stereotypes stifles reconciliation. It prevents us from fully understanding the role that colonialism played in fostering the rise of those stereotypes. We must be able to understand the true reason as to why these stereotypes exist and why they are still used today.

Mental health can be viewed in different ways.

QNSA hosted a talking circle on the topic of Indigenous mental health where we discussed a number of topics. There were both Indigenous students and settler allies in attendance. We often associate mental health with a state of happiness. Indigenous ways of thought, however, associate mental health with the Four Directions present in the medicine wheel: the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. When mental health suffers, it means that you are not feeding one of these components. Sometimes, it can be valuable to look at mental health through a different lens. Western medicine may work for some people, but for others, traditional teachings may also suffice. It is important to be open to new ways of thought when it comes to mental health and all issues for that matter.

Identity is complicated.

For generations, Indigenous peoples were taught to be ashamed of their identity. The Canadian government went to great lengths to institutionalize Indigenous peoples and strip them of their culture, language, and heritage. It is because of this that many Indigenous peoples, including some of my ancestors, decided to marry outside of their Indigenous communities to ensure their children would not suffer the same institutionalized effects of colonialism. I have heard stories from people who hid their ancestry from everybody they knew out of shame. However, there is hope for the revival of Indigenous culture in Canada. There are people who are reclaiming their identity and heritage with pride, including myself. For those who don’t know me, I am French Metis with Algonquin roots but I have fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Many have questioned my identity, as do I from time to time. However, I have decided that not acknowledging my Indigenous heritage would mean lying to myself. This isn’t the path that everyone takes to identifying as Indigenous, and many people arrive at their conclusion whether or not they wish to identify as Indigenous in their own way on their own time. Nonetheless, IAW taught me that we need to create a climate in this country where being Indigenous is no longer something to be ashamed of, but rather something to be embraced.

There are differences that exist between individual Indigenous cultures.

“I know that there are roughly 130 First Nations in Ontario alone and while there are definite similarities, traditional, spiritual, cultural and linguistic practices are somewhat unique to each Nation. I really enjoyed seeing this at various events throughout Indigenous Awareness Week. At our Mental Health talk, many of the Indigenous students who were present spoke on different experiences from their communities and different medicinal practices employed among their people. As well, during our Solidarity Walk, I spent the whole walk talking to another Indigenous student from a First Nation several provinces away from mine and we compared experiences, traditions and knowledge. In this way, Indigenous Awareness Week was an opportunity and a reminder of the uniqueness and individuality of every First Nation. This take away reminds us that Indigenous peoples within Canada are not a monolith and cannot be treated as such. However, these differences do not divide us. Everyone I spoke to during IAW, despite being from different communities and nations than I am, were so willing to share their knowledge and to learn from me too. We have shared culture, shared experiences and certainly a shared future.”

– Chelsea Fennell, QNSA Social Media Director

We need dialogue.

The reality is that we live in a country composed of Indigenous peoples and settlers. This isn’t going to change. We need to create a dialogue where Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can openly communicate their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and wishes for the future with one another. This is truly the only way we are going to progress as a society. We are at a critical juncture in history where we will pave the way for our next generations. I want to see a future where all people living on this land can live in perfect harmony. I want everyone to have prosperity, good health, and equality. In order to do that, our non-Indigenous allies must fully listen to the concerns of Indigenous peoples.  If we really want to put the “Truth” in Truth and Reconciliation, then we must create a dialogue that allows this to happen.

Natasha Kornak is a second year Métis student at Queen’s University majoring Life Science. She is the 2016-17 Blog Director for Queen’s Native Students Association.

Remembering our Indigenous Veterans

November 8th, 2016 will always be remembered as the day of the 2016 American Presidential election. What you might not know is this past November 8th was Aboriginal Veterans Day, as it is every year. The Indigenous peoples of Canada have been a key part of the forces throughout history. Yet, Canadian society has yet to fully acknowledge the sacrifices that its Indigenous peoples have made to serve our country.

It is estimated that some 12 thousand Indigenous people, which includes First Nations, Inuit, Métis and non-status Indians, have served Canada in World War I and II and the Korean War. Four thousand Indigenous peoples served in the First World War, one of whom was John Campbell, who travelled some 5 thousand kilometers by foot and canoe to enlist in the army. Most Indigenous enlistment during the First World War came from Tyendinaga and Six Nations. Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture, a member of Six Nations, served overseas during World War I. Racist policies prevented her from being admitted to a nursing school in Canada. Thus, she pursued her degree in the United States and subsequently served with the U.S. Medical Corps at a hospital in France. At home, many Indigenous peoples supported the war effort monetarily and allowed reserve land to be used for military purposes. Overall, 50 Indigenous soldiers have been awarded medals for their bravery.

It’s not uncommon during the month of November to see red poppies pinned over the hearts of just about everyone. The symbol of the poppy means something different to everyone. To commemorate the Indigenous and non-Indigenous veterans who have served our country, Mi’kmaq artisan Killa Atencio has been beading poppies, each of which takes her two and a half hours to complete. You can listen to Atencio recite “In Flanders Fields” in Mi’kmaq here. In addition, the Royal Canadian Legion created a pin to commemorate the Indigenous peoples that have served our great nation.

While it is important to admire their bravery and sacrifice, we must also acknowledge that Indigenous soldiers faced many challenges when serving overseas. Many of them had to adjust to learning English or French and being separated from their communities and traditional ways of living. Initially, the Canadian government did not want Indigenous peoples serving in the army and thus discouraged them from enlisting. However, as the war effort progressed, the enlistment of Indigenous peoples became tolerated and, in some instances, even encouraged.

Despite making the ultimate sacrifice for their country, Indigenous veterans were not always treated as heroes upon returning home from battle. When Indigenous veterans returned to their homes on reserves after serving overseas, they were not offered benefits even close to those living off-reserve. In addition, those who had been absent from their band for over four years lost status due to provisions in the Indian Act. Some band members resented those who had fought alongside the White Man overseas, while many non-Indigenous Canadians still held prejudice against Indigenous Canadians, including Indigenous veterans. This left many feeling as though their service was underappreciated. In reading about the experiences of Indigenous soldiers, remember that these were individuals who could not even vote without losing their Aboriginal status until 1960—and yet they still enlisted by the thousands to fight for our freedom even though they themselves did not yet have it.

Today the military has still not done much to mend its relationships with Indigenous peoples. The Oka Crisis of 1990 increased tensions between Indigenous peoples and the military. The Canadian Forces currently only has a 3.3% quota for Aboriginal peoples in the forces, a target that is rarely met. Stories of racism in the military are not uncommon today. Master Cpl. Marc Frenette, a Cree member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, left the military in a suicidal state after facing severe racism.

Although Canadians need to focus on the future to mend their relationships with Indigenous peoples, part of doing this involves reflecting on the past, particularly the sacrifices that Indigenous veterans have made for this country. There are so many Indigenous war heroes that we can honour, such as Lt.-Col. Glenlyon Campbell and Thomas George Prince, Canada’s most decorated Indigenous soldier, but you can view a list of all of the Indigenous veterans names here. This video honors the service of Indigenous veterans throughout the years.

This Remembrance Day, let’s remember that love and acceptance are much more powerful than hate and prejudice. We must resolve to love and respect one another regardless of race, gender, or religion if we truly do not want the atrocities of history to repeat themselves. Today we are able to live safely in this great nation because of the sacrifices of thousands of men and women in uniform, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. This Remembrance Day, let’s not just remember some of our veterans, but all of them.

Natasha Kornak is a second year Métis student at Queen’s University majoring Life Science. She is the 2016-17 Blog Director for Queen’s Native Students Association.

My Culture is Not your Costume

Every October I, along with literally everyone else, am faced with the impossible dilemma of what to dress up as for Halloween. I haven’t decided on a costume quite yet, but I can tell you what I won’t be dressing up as: Reservation Royalty.

Before you write this off as another rant about cultural appropriation, just hear me out as to why this is a really important issue.

If you’re wondering what’s wrong with this costume, let’s start off with the its name, “Reservation Royalty.” First of all, there has never been a monarchical system used by North America’s Indigenous peoples. To dress up as an “Indian princess” paints a historically inaccurate picture, and let’s be honest, Indigenous people have had to fight hard enough to have their history portrayed correctly (and no, Pocahontas is not historically accurate). In fact, the Indigenous peoples of (what is now) North America directly suffered due to colonialism as directed by the French and British monarchies.

The label “Reservation Royalty” also implies that reservations are some sort of magical kingdom for Indigenous people. That’s simply not the case. Today, there are 132 drinking water advisories in effect in 89 First Nations reserves across the country, excluding British Columbia. The housing crisis is so bad in Attawapiskat First Nation that they cannot get full-time nurses to stay in the community. In truth, not every reserve is facing these challenges, but too many of them are. It sounds just like a fairytale, right?

Another one of the numerous problems with this costume is that it turns the sexual objectification of Indigenous women into a commodity. Indigenous women have long been victims of human trafficking and have gone missing by the thousands. This costume perpetuates the notion that Indigenous women are only good for sex, which sets us back in our efforts to combat the ongoing injustice of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in this country. I should also mention that this isn’t the only “Native American Indian” costume available. This website has so many costumes that sexualize Indigenous women that I don’t know how anyone could ever just pick one!

This isn’t about political correctness; it’s about respect. There’s a reason why people were outraged when Macklemore dressed up as a Jewish man or when Julianne Hough used black face when dressing up as Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black or that this “sexy burka” costume even existed—because these cultures have been plagued by systemic oppression and racism for centuries. Likening yourself to a culture for one day out of the year doesn’t make it yours.

You might argue that dressing up in a cultural costume simply shows your respect for/desire to learn about the culture in question. After all, Oscar Wilde did say “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” However, there are an infinite number of other ways that you can learn about another culture without dressing up in an unauthentic, blatantly offensive Halloween costume. If you go to Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre’s website, you will find a list of educational workshops and events open to the public, regardless of whether or not you’re Indigenous. Taking the time to speak with elders and community members will be far more enlightening than a night of partying in a very offensive costume. If you still want to add elements of Indigenous culture to your wardrobe, check out She Native Goods and various online stores owned by Indigenous artisans.

14633289_1084154628349296_3302331692820133766_oKingston is situated on traditional Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. If you choose to go out this Halloween, please have respect for those who walked these lands before you.

And before you go, please check out QNSA’s suggestions for some non-offensive Halloween costumes here. Happy Halloween!

Natasha Kornak is a second year Métis student at Queen’s University majoring Life Science. She is the 2016-17 Blog Director for Queen’s Native Students Association.

No More Stolen Sisters

Violence against Aboriginal women and girls is a national tragedy in Canada. In 2014, the RCMP released a report representing the first time police in Canada have attempted to identify the numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women in girls across all its jurisdictions. The report stated that between 1980 and 2012, at least 1017 Aboriginal women in girls were murdered, revealing a homicide rate at least 4.5 times higher than that faced by all other women. Further, it identified 164 unresolved cases of indigenous women or girls, missing for 30 days or longer. In a supplementary report in 2015 looking at only cases within RCMP jurisdiction (therefore excluding murders of Aboriginal females in all of Ontario and Quebec), the RCMP revealed 32 cases of murder of Aboriginal women in 2013 and 2014 alone. While painting a grim picture of the extent of this tragedy in Canada, Amnesty International has pointed to gaps in this statistical picture, as the report only includes cases where the investigating police force concluded that a homicide occurred, and police practices are inconsistent in establishing whether or not victims of these crimes are Aboriginal. Since there are currently no standards or training practices for police on how to correctly record the identity of victims, police may simply guess or record Aboriginal identity based on whether or not the victim “looks” Aboriginal to them. These figures entirely leave out the large numbers of unresolved or suspicious deaths not covered by the report, and the deaths of many Aboriginal women and girls are largely insufficiently investigated.


While revealing the importance of the issue, the RCMP reports do not provide any alternative means for action besides holding a national inquiry. As well as having gaps in its statistics, the report fails to include the voices of affected families and communities. As well, it does not provide any means for implementing identified solutions.


The government previously responded to this violence by framing it around the issues of “high-risk lifestyles” (referencing poverty, addiction issues, sex work and hitchhiking). Recently, the RCMP report has been misinterpreted and manipulated by its issuers to recast this crisis as a symptom of domestic violence exclusively within Aboriginal communities and reserves. While it is true that the majority (62%) of homicides with female Aboriginal victims reported by the RCPM occurred in the home, government spokespersons have ignored the fact that this is a significantly lower percentage than women in the general population (74% of murders of non-Aboriginal women are committed by intimate partners and family members). This means that there is a much higher rate of attacks on Aboriginal women and girls by acquaintances, including neighbors, employers, and authority figures.


It is also important to remember that in addition to facing far higher risks of homicide, Aboriginal women and girls are also three times more likely to experience violence than other women in Canada. It is critical that judicial attention be directed toward all forms of violence disproportionately faced by Aboriginal women and girls. Both of these framings have failed to capture the diversity and complexities of experiences of Aboriginal communities. Attacks on Aboriginal women and girls occur in a social context in where discrimination, marginalization and impoverishment put them at risk, and deny them the opportunity to escape violence.


Why is a national public inquiry important?


Amnesty International states that distributing accurate information on the patterns of violence facing at-risk populations is one of the most basic proactive measures governments can carry out. The Canadian government’s failure to do so implies a callous disregard for the human rights and safety of Aboriginal women and girls. A National Inquiry is the first step in ensuring public accountability of the state.


The UN Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) has condemned Canada for its “grave violations” of human rights, due to “protracted failure” to undertake action to stop this violence. This committee has also called for both an independent national inquiry and a comprehensive, coordinated action plan. Under the Harper government, however, Canada made no commitment to change its programs or policies.


In rejecting the need for a national inquiry studying this issue, the government has referred to over 40 previous studies carried out on various aspects of Indigenous peoples’ lives in Canada. The vast majority of recommendations made in these report have gone unnoticed, and cannot be cited for justification for continued inaction.


The government response to this issue has been scattered and sporadic. Voices of affected families and communities have been entirely ignored by the Canadian government. Further, government officials continue to make statements that simplify and distort the issues, despite evidence that the violence is both pervasive and fueled by state-instigated policies. A national inquiry is needed as a means to hold the federal government accountable, accompanied by a clear commitment to actually ACT on the recommendations it produces.


Canada needs a national action plan to address gaps in current policies, programs and services related to the crisis of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. This plan MUST be developed in collaboration with Indigenous women’s organizations, who must receive full and effective participation in defining needs and solutions. An independent national inquiry must serve as a powerful tool in ensuring this national action plan is well informed and rigidly supported by those it governs.


It is important to note, however, that this inquiry represents only a small step toward the solution, and is not the solution itself. It must not be used to delay actions that can be taken immediately and it must not simply produce another body of recommendations that will not be acted upon by the government.



A Way Forward?


While Harper and his ministers refused the demand for both a national action plan and a national inquiry, preferring to view the issue as a law and order issue and implementing “adequate” crime prevention measures, Trudeau has emphasized a national inquiry as an important issue to his government. The new Liberal government under Justin Trudeau has outlined intentions to “renew the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples.” He has stated that this renewal must be “a nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.” Trudeau has stated that the government must implement recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission starting with the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He has stated a mandate to launch an inquiry on the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada.


The liberal government has said it will begin the process of consulting Canadians on how to best proceed with this inquiry within the next “couple of weeks”. The government has stated that this process will involve speaking with the families of victims, grassroots organizations and provincial and territorial representatives.



Sources/More information can be found at:























Let’s talk about Northern Food Insecurity in Canada

We need to talk about food insecurity in Canada. This isn’t new; it’s been an ongoing issue for a long, long time. According to the World Food Summit, food security exists where “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” So where significant percentages of northern rural communities are food insecure, it’s safe to say it’s a huge issue. While 13% of Canadian households (4 million people, including 1.5 million children) experienced food insecurity at some level in 2012, this crisis disproportionately affects Canada’s remote Northern communities, especially those in Nunavut. Food insecurity in Nunavut remains the highest in the country at 45.2%. Within this, indigenous populations in Nunavut suffer from food insecurity rates of 68%, the highest in the world for an indigenous population in a developed country. According to Statistics Canada research completed in 2012, the Northwest Territories has the second highest food insecurity rate in Canada, at 13.7%. Food insecurity continues to negatively impact the physical and mental health of northern Aboriginal communities, and has been associated with major health problems including obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Everywhere in Canada, off-reserve Aboriginal households in Canada are twice as likely as other Canadian households to be food insecure. The poor health and long-term physical and mental disabilities resulting from food insecurity can limit activity and performance at home, work or school for those affected. This issue can also lead to major depression, in a region already struggling with high suicide rates. Research suggests that in order to protect their children from food insecurity, adults will often reduce the variety and quantity of their own meals in order to prevent their children from experiencing severe hunger. Especially worrying, Canadian households with children have a higher prevalence of food insecurity than those without children. Nearly 70% of Inuit preschoolers ages 3 to 5 lived in food-insecure households, hindering the healthy growth and development they deserve.

The Council of Canadian Academies has looked into the diversity of experiences with food insecurity had by northern First Nations, Inuit, and Métis households and communities. In a report entitled “Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge,” food insecurity is presented as a vastly complex issue that cannot be “solved” using one single approach. A range of holistic approaches must be implemented, and existing knowledge gaps must be addressed with more research and food security measurements. Cooperation of all relevant actors is required to seriously address the issue, including policy-makers, local businesses, and the communities themselves.

But why exactly is food insecurity so prevalent in remote Northern communities? Why must almost half of Nunavut’s population struggle with sky-high food prices and widespread hunger? In these sparsely populated regions, food must be flown or shipped in during the winter months, resulting in extremely high shipping costs.

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In addition to high shipping costs, a variety of other stressors contribute to food insecurity, including unemployment, poor quality housing, increased hunting costs, socio-cultural changes (such as the decreased transfer of traditional hunting knowledge), low income, and reliance on income support from the government. The historical legacy of colonial intrusion (and forced imposition of changing educational and economic systems) continues to linger, and there has been a gradual shift away from high-quality “country food” (such as seals, fish and caribou) to store-bought food. In stores, the food that is most affordable is often that which is heavily processed and low on nutrition. Due to these ridiculous food prices, an increasingly number of families have turned to food banks in order to survive, and food bank use increased in the region in 2012. In often highly vulnerable Northern communities, having an active hunter in the household, or consuming country food, offers significant protection against food insecurity. Unfortunately, the rising costs of hunting mean that access to traditional “country foods” is increasingly sparse. Traditional knowledge must be recovered, revitalized, and re-prioritized.

Though this is obviously a crucially important issue for Canada, the federal government hasn’t come anywhere close to addressing it. While a federal program entitled “Nutrition North” was launched in 2011, designed to offset food transportation foods to remote and northern communities, families continue to spend more money on groceries per week than they were under previous programs.

Canadians have a collective responsibility to prioritize this issue, and to face it head on. Food insecurity in northern rural communities is reaching crisis levels, and continues to worsen the longer it is unaddressed. Unlike other countries dealing with food insecurity, Canada has the resources and capacity to address these issues. It’s time for change.

This Wednesday (October 21) QNSA is hosting feast night at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, from 5:00pm-7:00pm. This opportunity will be used to let people know about our plans for the upcoming year, with a focus on our Northern Food initiative, in which we support a family in Nunavut by providing them with the necessary funds to purchase local foods. We hope to see those from the Queen’s and Kingston communities come out for great food and important conversation!










Queen’s Native Students Association presents the Creative Connections: Indigenous Expressions Night at the Common Ground coffee house on Monday, March 16th at 7pm. We would like to have some performers guaranteed before the date, so we are holding a Call for Submissions. If you or someone you know is interested in performing a song, dance, poetic piece, reading, or any other piece of creative expression please let us know! Pieces should have to do with Indigenous identity, culture, or connections to land and natural environments. Please e-mail qnsaclub@gmail.com to discuss what you’d like to perform, and please know that any person of any age or cultural background is welcome to perform.
Thank you!



We’re Getting Excited!

How close are we to the 2014/15 school year? SUPER CLOSE. 


QNSA is ready to get vamped up! We’re going to be swamped in September and we LOVE it!

A head up on the events QNSA will be attending in september:

  • Early Move-In Day, August 30th
  • Queen’s in the Park, Sept 3rd
  • Queen’s Sidewalk Sale, September 5th. 
  • EngDay, Sunday September 7th
  • Tricolour Open House, September 9th
  • Welcome Back BBQ @ Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, September 17th

You can also sign up to volunteer at Aboriginal Outreach Initiatives by clicking HERE.

You can like Four Directions on Facebook HERE & QNSA HERE

See you soon!

Kathleen Blinkhorn Aboriginal Student Scholarship Fund

The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) just released the 2014 application form for the Kathleen Blinkhorn Aboriginal Student Scholarship, which is available to Aboriginal students living in non-profit housing. There are 5 scholarships in the amount of $1,000 available for uses including tuition, books, technology (laptop, etc.) and transportation.

The deadline is: AUGUST 22nd 2014

You can find all the information you need HERE


Good Luck!