UVic Torch -- Fall 2004
Autumn 2004,
Volume 25, Number 2

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DOUG JOHNSON, BA ’77, LLB ’80 - Aboriginal Alumni: A New Partnership Aboriginal Alumni: A New Partnership

EVERY CONVOCATION CEREMONY AT UVIC BEGINS WITH the chancellor acknowledging the importance of the history of the Songhees and Coast Salish people upon whose traditional territory the university is situated. The chancellor’s chair and other convocation furnishings are also the magnificent products of West Coast aboriginal artists. These are powerful symbols of the university’s respect for aboriginal peoples.

The university’s current strategic plan includes the objective “to increase the number of aboriginal students graduating from all faculties at UVic, building on our commitment to and our unique relationship with First Nations communities.” I have also heard our president, as well as our vice-presidents, speak of the importance of the university’s participation in the process of reconciliation with the aboriginal peoples. It is clear that the university community fully endorses these priorities.

I was very pleased when the graduating class of 2003, as their gift to the university, commissioned the Lekwungen Housepost that stands near the Student Union Building. It confirmed that our students also wish to participate in this process of reconciliation and it brought into focus the thought that the UVic Alumni Association could perhaps take a more active role in the process as well. This is one way we can fulfill our mandate to support the university in attaining its goals.

We have recently begun working with alumni services staff and aboriginal members of the university community to establish an Aboriginal Alumni Chapter of the association. About four weeks from the time I write these words, we will participate in an event at Martin Mungo House in Thunderbird Park at the Royal BC Museum. We will celebrate the achievements of aboriginal graduates, offer inspiration to aboriginal students and extend to aboriginal alumni our desire to join with them in supporting aboriginal students. Hopefully the event will help to create the critical mass required to form a strong aboriginal chapter.

Once established, the chapter will be free to determine its own objectives. I hope that ultimately the alumni association can build more support, with the new chapter, for indigenous students. The chapter might also promote higher education within aboriginal communities and make it clear that aboriginal students are welcomed and respected at UVic.

While we are already fortunate to have several aboriginal members of the alumni association we want many, many more.

To get involved with the Aboriginal Alumni Chapter, contact Karen Whyte in the UVic Alumni Services office at (250) 721-6000.

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