Events, clubs, and supports for Indigenous students

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Information on UVic’s Indigenous supports for this coming semester

UVic First Peoples House
Photo provided by Barbara Todd Hager

UVic’s campus is buzzing with the frenzied commotion of the start of the fall semester. As a new or returning Indigenous student, you might be wondering where you can find support, how you can connect with the community, or if the COVID-19 guidelines are affecting the Indigenous student resources on campus this year.

Whether you are attending online or in-person classes, there are several different supports, events, and study spaces specifically for Indigenous students at UVic.

Here are the answers to some of the questions you might have about UVic’s Indigenous supports this semester, including what has changed due to the COVID-19 guidelines. 

What is the First Peoples House and is it open to students this year? 

The First Peoples House (FPH) is UVic’s cultural, academic, and social centre for Indigenous students. It exists as a safe space for Indigenous-identifying peoples to build community and  meet with Elders on campus. The FPH is managed by the office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement (IACE), which is dedicated to supporting Indigenous students at UVic with academic, cultural, and financial assistance for success.

“It’s limited, but we’re open,” said Barbara Todd Hager, the IACE communications officer, when asked about the First Peoples House in an interview with the Martlet. She commented that the IACE staff will be available to meet with students during their office hours and that the IACE plans on opening the computer room for the fall semester with limited capacity.

“At this time, we plan on having the Elders back in the First Peoples House in the Elder’s Lounge for meeting with students,” Hager says. Elders and Knowledge Keepers provide cultural support, guidance, and knowledge and are offering Zoom, phone, and in-person meetings for UVic’s fall and winter semesters at the FPH from 10 am till 2 pm Mondays to Fridays. 

Hager suggests that if students want to speak with an Elder they should book an appointment in advance through the online form which can be found on the IACE website.  As of this writing, the Students’ Lounge in the FPH is closed and Hager is unsure when it will be reopened for the fall semester. 

What is the Indigenous Week of Welcome? 

The Indigenous Week of Welcome is exactly what it sounds like – a week of welcoming the new and returning Indigenous students to UVic’s campus. It begins on Monday, Sept. 13 and ends on Sept. 17 with one event occurring at the FPH or virtually each day. There will be an IACE staff meet-and-greet, a smudge kit handout, the Elders brunch, bingo with the Native Student Union, and a virtual mini paddle workshop with Campus Cousins. The virtual workshop requires registration before Sept. 10. 

Is there an Indigenous students’ club? 

The Native Students’ Union (NSU) is a student-run organization that supports Indigenous students at UVic. The NSU puts on a variety of events throughout the school year for their members and meets weekly to discuss future events, supports, and the use of their budget. 

This tight-knit community of Indigenous students is primarily located in their space in the basement of the Student Union Building (SUB), but also has a small office and study space in the FPH.

“Our space in the SUB offers study space with computers and printing, a lunch space with snacks, tea and coffee, and a lounge with comfy couches to relax between classes,” wrote Peter Underwood, the office coordinator for the NSU, in an email comment. You can become a member by filling out an online form on the NSU’s website. 

Are there Indigenous counsellors available to talk to? 

Yes, there are two Indigenous counsellors on campus located at their offices in the Student Wellness Center. The counsellors incorporate Indigenous knowledge and ways of being into their approach and are offering sessions this upcoming semester. The Student Wellness Centre also has a Nurse Liaison specifically for Indigenous students. 

Some Indigenous students can also access resources through their faculties, such as those enrolled in Human and Social Development (HSD) programs. HSD has its own Indigenous Student Support Centre with Indigenous advisors that can provide cultural, academic, and social assistance.

What if I have a sudden emergency during the semester and need financial help? 

If you are an Indigenous student (First Nations status or non-status, Metis, or Inuit) attending a UVic program at full or part-time, you are eligible for emergency bursaries. These funds are to help Indigenous students through unforeseen emergencies while studying at UVic. You can contact the Coordinator of Indigenous Student Support for more information on this.

Update: After this article was published, we learned that the Students Lounge is now open in the First Peoples House.