McMaster University opens new Indigenous learning space

HAMILTON – McMaster University opened up a new outdoor space last week called the Indigenous Circle, or, Kateweienstha (Learning in the Forest) in Mohawk, and Nibwaajkaawin Teg (Place of Wisdom) in Ojibway.

After a ceremony held on Friday, Sept. 23, the circle is now open for ceremonies, dance, classes, and other uses designed to show the community in and around the university how culturally relevant Indigenous knowledge and education is, and has always been.

Santee Smith, artistic director at Kaha:wi Dance Theatre in Toronto sang and performed at the circle’s opening ceremony with her daughter. She thanked McMaster University for creating the space.

“It was an honour to sing to the land and open the space with good energy with my daughter,” Smith posted on her Facebook page. “Good intentions for this place and the Indigenous Studies department.”

It’s fitting that the two names for the space are Kateweienstha (Learning in the Forest) in Mohawk, and Nibwaajkaawin Teg (Place of Wisdom) in Ojibway, because that’s exactly what the intent for the space is. The stage overlooks the forest by the Cootes Paradise Wetland and features large stone seating in an outdoor ampitheatre style where students and professors will literally be learning in the forest. It’s fitting for it to be called a place of wisdom as well because universities and educational institutes are known for teaching higher education.

“All faculties and departments are able to inquire with the Indigenous Studies program and Indigenous Student Services about booking the space,” Vanessa Watts, instructor for McMaster’s Indigenous Studies program told the university at last week’s opening ceremony. “So this space is meant to be open to the university and community.” Inspiration for the circle came from discussions McMaster University had since the Truth and Reconciliation final report was released last year.

McMaster University is known to be an institution that tries to re-establish healing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

“McMaster president Patrick Deane is a great advocate for Indigenous education at the school,” said Christa Jonathan, a student at McMaster from Six Nations. “We’ve spoken before about my education here and you can tell he really cares about what goes on.

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