Two University of Victoria students, Sue Bishop and Simone Blais, will be attending the inaugural Racialized Indigenous Student Experience (R.I.S.E) Summit, hosted in Scarborough, Ont., from March 19–21.
The summit is hosted by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), who have invited indigenous students across Canada to “come together, share stories of success and struggle, support, nurture, and heal together.”
Both Bishop and Blais will attend the conference as representatives of UVic and the Native Student Union, the latter of which is sponsoring the two students.
Simone Blais, a second-year student in History and Indigenous Studies from the Métis nation in Ontario, says she is thrilled to be attending the conference.
“I am so fricking excited. I’m so excited,” says Blais. “It’s going to be the coolest, raddest [experience, with] activists of colour from campuses all across Canada in one room. I’m so excited.”
Blais also believes that attending the conference in its inaugural year is another reason for celebration.
“Usually conferences like [R.I.S.E] are, I think, the best [in] the first year,” Blais says, “because they’re kind of new, there are not as many rules, and it’s just [a case of] ‘let’s see how it goes.’ It’s kind of fresh.”
Students from B.C. to Prince Edward Island will be attending the summit, with the goal of bringing as many indigenous voices together as possible.
Sue Bishop, a UVic student in her third year of studying Social Work and Indigenous Studies and a member of the Garden River First Nations in Northern Ontario, says the collection of indigenous voices will be a powerful thing.
“[It brings] to mind the saying, ‘a bundle of sticks is stronger than one stick,’” Bishop says. “One stick is easily broken or silenced; a bundle is stronger and almost impossible to break or silence.”
“It’s so incredibly important,” Blais says. “It’s really important to be connected to your own community, but just knowing what else is out there, and knowing what other indigenous students are doing on their campuses, is so inspirational.”
On their Facebook event for the summit, the CFS say the summit will provide a space for student activists “to gather, to learn, to heal . . . and ultimately develop a common vision to combat racism and colonialism.”
There will be plenty of opportunities for learning at the conference, which is something Bishop is looking forward to.
“[I’m looking forward to learning] how to have a stronger [or] louder voice when it comes to fighting racism, oppression, and injustice on campus and in society,” she says, “[or learning] how to properly address these issues when I witness or hear of them happening.
And both Bishop and Blais are itching at the prospect of sharing a myriad of ideas with the indigenous community at UVic.
“I definitely want to bring back what I learned,” says Blais. “I haven’t really decided how I’m going to bring it back, or what I’m going to do, but I know there’s going to be some radical ideas that are gonna come up that I’m really going to need to mobilize.”
Correction: A previous version of this article said the summit was called the Racialized Indigenous Experience Summit. This left out the Student part of the name, which would make for a proper acronym. We have fixed this mistake and regret the error.