The Thrive committee sat down with Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Dante Carter, and the Director of Indigenous Initiatives, Lauren Aussant, from the Edwards Business Students Society (EBSS) to discuss the creation and evolution of the Indigenous Initiatives document.

The EBSS is at the top of an umbrella of inter-council clubs such as the Accounting Club, the Marketing Students Society, and most recently, the Indigenous Business Students Society (IBSS). The IBSS is a group within Edwards that is dedicated to advocating for Indigenous students and enhancing the student experience in their time at Edwards.

Last year, the EBSS created a strategy for a document called the Indigenous Initiatives. The strategy aims to create an environment where Indigenous culture and tradition is celebrated, respected and evident. The EBSS created this document in collaboration with the IBSS to develop a safe and inclusive space in the EBSS and within Edwards.

When speaking with Aussant and Carter, the importance of the Indigenous Initiatives document became very clear. Change, Inclusion, Recognition, Collaboration, Learning, and Equity (CIRCLE) were commitments created to align with the Calls to Action established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The symbol of the circle holds significance in Indigenous culture. The circle represents unity and equity. It illustrates how all things are interconnected and dependent on one another.

Carter expressed that there was a need for decolonization within the EBSS that prompted the creation of the framework. She explained, "Not only is it something we should be thinking about as a student group who serves a diverse student body, but also as a way to better our relationships with other groups we work with."

The creation process of a document like this is very intensive and one that involves much research and collaboration. Aubrey-Anne Laliberte-Pewapisconias, co-founder of the IBSS, oversaw the initial completion of the document. The composers wanted to see the structure of similar initiatives at other Canadian business schools.

They quickly realized no other business student associations were partaking in such initiatives and that they would be spearheading the initiative. This also meant that there was a large component of consultation with other Indigenous students and the IBSS.

This year, the Director of Indigenous Initiatives, Lauren Aussant, is updating the Indigenous Initiatives document to better reflect the needs of Indigenous students that have developed over the past year. Aussant explained, "After discussing with Dante and other Indigenous students, I started looking at more specific ways that we can decolonize and indigenize each portfolio of the EBSS."

During her discussions and research, Aussant saw the need to indigenize the many events hosted by the EBSS so Indigenous students, faculty, and staff felt comfortable and included in that environment. Different ways this can be accomplished are indicated in the "Inclusion" aspect of the Indigenous Initiatives document.

The introduction of this document at the 2021 IBSS Indigenous Achievement Conference was a particularly important day and a coming-of-age moment for Carter and her fellow peers. It was first shared with Dean Keith Willoughby for faculty and staff of Edwards and later was shared at the Canadian Association of Business Students Conference with schools all over Canada.

The Indigenous Initiatives document should be incorporated in students, staff, and faculty’s daily lives to decolonize and indigenize Edwards as a whole. When asked how to make Edwards a safe and inclusive space, Carter said, "When we are in a colonial institution that is rooted in the harms against Indigenous peoples, it's so important to be cognizant of thinking about ways we can help."

One of the first steps that Aussant and Carter advise to begin decolonization and indigenization in our daily lives, is writing personal land acknowledgments. They encourage Thrive readers to answer the question ‘What privileges do you have and how can you use those to give back to the Indigenous community?’ This is where the document may come in handy for so many to understand the importance of culture and awareness in the Indigenous community.

Aussant explained, "For many Edwards students, faculty, and staff, they may not understand the experiences of Indigenous students, which I think has been in Canadian history for a long time."

The EBSS Indigenous Initiatives document is and will continue to be a very monumental and eminent piece of work and the Edwards School of Business is very proud of the students involved.

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