BY SHELBY PAULGAARD / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Augustana has held a string of recent events both on campus and online aimed at challenging colonial practices and thought in our every day lives. Although I haven’t been able to attend all of these events, I did get to take a front row seat during the recent events featuring visiting poet and activist Rita Wong. Many of these events incorporated Indigenous perspectives and provoked thought into alternative ways of knowing, especially around issues of ecological justice, climate change, and access to clean water.
I had the opportunity to assist in curating the exhibit currently in the library, near the basement stairs (it will be up until the end of February, so stop in and have a look if you haven’t seen it yet). This display features a collection of Rita Wong’s poetry along with quotations she pulled from various sources to include in her poetry collection, undercurrent. A couple of these quotes, featured in the poem “Fresh Ancient Ground” stood out to me:
“Since 1978, over 14 billion dollars have been taken out of our traditional territory. Yet my family still goes without running water.”– Melina Laboucan Massimo, Lubicon Cree woman
“When you can’t trust the water, it’s terrifying”– James Cameron visiting the tar sands
These stood out to me for a few reasons, but mostly because I am still shocked at how many Indigenous communities — even those very close to home, as Louise Omeasoo of Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis (outside of Wetaskiwin) pointed out in one of the events — are still without access to clean water. This inability to trust the water, and those who gate-keep it, most certainly is terrifying.
I’m an English major, and right now, a lot of the courses I’m taking are exploring some overlapping themes of imperialism, colonialism, and post-colonialism, as I’m sure many other students can relate to. Although postcolonial thought in Canada is what I’m most familiar with, I have been learning more and more about the impacts of colonialism on countries in Africa, the middle east, and Asia, and coming to see how 18th century British imperialism seems to be the root of a vast majority of global issues today.
These explorations into the after-effects of Colonialism have also driven me to think critically about my experiences in rural Alberta, and how Augustana, as a small university in rural Alberta, is working to combat and change some of these experiences. While I would like to acknowledge that there is still much room for growth and our campus is far from perfect in regards to a decolonized education system, I was also very pleased to see the lineup of interesting events on campus for the Winter 2023 semester involving Indigenous speakers along with the events curated for Black History Month. In addition, the turnout at many of these events has also been impressive. I know that for many of us, our participation grades rely on our attendance at these events, and while this may be an unpopular opinion, since we’re attending them outside of class time, I’m very excited that our professors are pushing us to attend these events and think critically about our experiences with the material. We all have room to grow, and hearing from activists and researchers working at getting to the heart of postcolonial issues is a great place to start.
For a full list of the University of Alberta’s events for Black History Month, use this link. In addition, look forward to a Black History Month feature coming in the next issue with information about past campus events and more. For a list of events on campus at Augustana and North Campus/online, click here. For more information about services available through the Indigenous Student Services offices, click here.