Indigenous History Month

National Indigenous History Month, held in June, is an opportunity for the Laurier community to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.

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Office of Indigenous Initiatives staff photo

Celebrating the Indigenous Community at Laurier

June 2024

Wilfrid Laurier University is proud to foster a community that embraces Indigenous initiatives as part of our institutional identity. Throughout Indigenous History Month and the rest of the year, we invite you to learn about incredible Indigenous students, thoughtful researchers and supportive staff members. Laurier has been working toward the goal of Indigenization, a term that reflects the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge into the daily life of the university.

You can support Laurier’s commitment to building capacity in Indigenous education on all of its campuses under the leadership of Indigenous students, faculty and staff, by making a donation in support of Indigenous Initiatives today.

Laurier Mural: One Heart, One Mind, One Vision

Ojibwe artist Mike Cywink’s woodland-style mural One Heart, One Mind, One Vision (2023) stands 40 feet high on the southwest wall of Laurier’s Waterloo campus library.

The mural is a testament to Laurier’s commitment to Indigeneity, truth and reconciliation and a celebration of Indigenous cultural expression, storytelling, and ways of knowing. One Heart, One Mind, One Vision serves as a reminder of the enduring strength and resilience of Indigenous peoples and an invitation for all of us to engage in meaningful dialogue and understanding. It reinforces our collective responsibility to create an academic community where diverse voices are heard, valued and cherished.


June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. It is a day to celebrate the heritage, culture and contributions of Indigenous Peoples from coast to coast to coast. National Indigenous Peoples Day falls on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and was chosen for its important symbolism to many Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Strategic Plan

As a result of extensive consultations with Indigenous Elders, community members, faculty, staff, and students, Laurier’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives developed a university-wide Indigenization strategy that has been a core initiative of Laurier’s Action Plan for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) and Indigeneity.

The Indigenous Strategic Plan was unanimously approved by the university Senate and Board of Governors in the summer of 2023.

This plan is informed by existing Indigenous scholarship on reconciliation and decolonization in the Canadian academy. It reinforces Laurier’s commitment to Indigenization and fostering a community that honors Indigenous knowledge and practices at Laurier. It also reflects Laurier’s belief that educational institutions have a duty to address the legacy of harm caused by colonial policies and practices.

Delaney, Darren and Eliza Thomas

Sisters Mark Convocation Milestones Together

Earning a university degree is never easy, but thanks to hard work, encouragement from family members and support from Laurier’s Indigenous Student Services team sisters Eliza and Delaney Thomas will proudly cross the convocation stage at Laurier’s Brantford campus in June.

Delaney will graduate with a master’s degree in Social Justice and Community Engagement, while Eliza will graduate with a double major undergraduate degree in Human Rights and Indigenous Studies.

Helping Prospective Indigenous Students in their Education Journey

Arriving from the small Ontario community of Port Elgin, Oliver Manidoka was naturally a little nervous when beginning studies at Laurier’s Waterloo campus as a first-year undergraduate student.

"But I was welcomed very warmly into the Laurier community and was supported with resources offered by the school," says Manidoka. 

During his studies, Manidoka worked on Laurier’s Indigenous Student Services team and provided one-on-one support, answering inquiries and helping navigate the undergraduate admissions process. After four successful years, Manidoka will graduate at spring convocation this June with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, research specialist designation.

Oliver Manidoka
Continuing Indigenous Education (CPSW)

Continuing Indigenous Education at Laurier

Through Laurier Continuing Education, community members can learn about Indigenous history, knowledge and practices, and how systems in Canada have impacted Indigenous communities.

Explore courses and certificates offered through the Centre for Indigegogy, Faculty of Social Work Professional Development, and the Centre for Public Safety and Well-Being.

Laurier Participates in Red Dress Day

Laurier honoured the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S+) individuals in Canada by participating in the Red Dress Day Initiative on May 5. Departments on all campuses were invited to display red dresses in their work areas.

In addition to Red Dress Day on May 5, Laurier also participates in the Red Dress Initiative on other dates of national significance, including the Women’s Memorial March on Feb. 14, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, and the National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on Oct. 4.

Red dresses hanging in a hallway

Spotlight on Research

Discover the work of some of Laurier’s Indigenous researchers, along with collaborative research projects with indigenous communities.

Laurier experts are available to discuss topics related to National Indigenous History Month, including Indigenous-settler relations and environmental stewardship.



Social Work PhD student Laura Thibeault, a member of Dokis First Nation, was recently named a 2024 Vanier Scholar and was also the first Laurier student to win the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship, the most prestigious doctoral award for social sciences and humanities in Canada. Through her research, Thibeault wants to honour and gather stories from First Nations women who have experienced infertility.

When it comes to Indigenous sovereignty, Giselle Dias says members of the Indigenous queer, Indigiqueer and Two-Spirit communities are often left out of the conversation. That is something Dias wants to change through her doctoral studies in the Indigenous Field of Study program offered by the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Sheri Longboat (MA ’96, PhD ’13) has always felt a deep personal connection to water. Since her earliest years growing up beside Lake Ontario in Hamilton, Ont., her “reverence and respect” for water has driven her to help protect it. She explores how Canada can deliver safe drinking water to First Nation communities.

During the summer of 2023, six Laurier student researchers travelled to the Northwest Territories to study an urgent environmental issue: permafrost thaw. Permafrost – which is frozen ground – protects polar ecosystems and traps harmful carbon emissions

Laura Thibeault
Laura Thibeault
Giselle Dias
Giselle Dias
Sheri Longboat
Sheri Longboat

Laurier Legacy Project Welcomes Indigenous Scholar Justice Gethin Edward

Justice Gethin Edward, a member of the Ontario Court of Justice in Brantford who led the creation of Brantford’s Indigenous Persons Court, joined Laurier in 2024 as a visiting Indigenous scholar as part of the Laurier Legacy public history initiative.

Justice Edward offered three lectures that explored his decolonization of the legal system. These lectures have been recorded and can be viewed online:

Guardians of Great Slave Lake: Laurier Ice Safety Research

The isolated community of Łutsël K'é Dene First Nation, Northwest Territories experienced a tragedy in 2019 when three community members are believed to have fallen through the ice on snowmobile while travelling over Great Slave Lake.

Ice travel is essential during winter months, but climate change is making ice conditions increasingly unpredictable. Łutsël K'é leaders approached Laurier researcher Homa Kheyrollah Pour for help.

Awards and Recognition

Governor General Honours Lianne Leddy

Lianne Leddy, an associate professor of History at Laurier, has been honoured with Canada’s top history prize. She received the 2023 Governor General’s History Award for Scholarly Research in recognition of her book Serpent River Resurgence: Confronting Uranium Mining at Elliot Lake. Leddy documented the destructive legacy of uranium mining on Serpent River First Nation in northern Ontario, of which she is a member.

Barbara Assiginaak Appointed Member of Order of Canada

Barbara Assiginaak, an assistant professor in Laurier’s Faculty of Music, was appointed as a member of the Order of Canada. Assiginaak was honoured for her diverse contributions to contemporary music as a classically trained musician rooted in Anishinaabe teachings.

Alumnus Brent Kaulback Awarded Meritorious Service Medal

When Brent Kaulback (BA ’75) left Toronto and moved to the Northwest Territories, it was only supposed to be for a year or two. He was a teacher looking for adventure and excited to see other parts of Canada. Almost 40 years later, he’s still there – and he has made profound contributions to life in the North.

Kaulback was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) by Governor General Mary Simon during a ceremony held at Rideau Hall on June 21, 2023, National Indigenous People’s Day.

Lianne Leddy
Lianne Leddy
Barbara Assiginaak
Barbara Assiginaak
Brent Kaulback
Brent Kaulback

Office of Indigenous Initiatives

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives (OII) is responsible for leading Indigenization at Laurier, a priority in the Laurier Strategy that involves fully integrating Indigenous knowledges and practices at the university. The OII also provides oversight to Indigenous Student Services, whose mandate is to build a positive student experience for Indigenous students, provide community for students and support them in culturally appropriate ways during their time at Laurier.

Community Soup Lunch and Learn

Local food sustainability initiatives were on the menu at this event where guests were provided a soup lunch harvested from the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Garden, located behind the Northdale Science Research Centre on Waterloo campus. Guests also took home marigold seeds from the garden to help local food systems cultivate and continue to grow.

Indigenous sovereignty garden harvest
Cara Loft singing

Laurier Honours Indigenous Graduates with Celebration at Six Nations

In May, Laurier honoured our 136 Fall ’23 and Winter ’24 Indigenous graduates alongside their families and friends during a graduation celebration at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.

Cara Loft (centre), a Laurier graduate (Bsc '13, MA '18) sang an Honour song and drummed as part of the festivities.

Indigenous Student Centres

The Indigenous Student Centres (ISC) on the Brantford and Waterloo campuses serve as the hub for Indigenous students. Whether you are looking for a space to study, hang out with friends, or continue on your journey of identity through cultural programming – the ISC has got you covered.

Indigenous Student Centre Brantford

Onkwehonwè:ne Brantford Campus

In Brantford, the generous support of the Grundy Family helped renovate Onkwehonwè:ne Brantford Campus.

This enhanced Indigenous Student Centre creates a larger supportive and nurturing space for Laurier’s growing Indigenous student community, allows for much-needed staff and programming expansion, and increases vital access to academic programs and assistance with career development to further enhance employment options for Indigenous students.

Indigenous Student Centre Waterloo

Nadjiwan Kaandossiwin Gamik (Beautiful Place of Learning)

Thanks to generous philanthropic investment, Lucinda House was renovated into an enhanced Indigenous Student Centre on Laurier’s Waterloo campus. This beautiful space provides a place where Laurier’s Indigenous student community can participate in ceremony and activities; where Laurier can demonstrate its commitment to Indigenous culture and learning, and to Indigenous students’ success; and where Indigenous students can find a “home away from home.”

Laurier offers gratitude to the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, the Students’ Union, the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association, Ken Flood and the Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Students’ Association for their significant gifts in support of this project.

The Impact of the Indigenous Knowledge Fund

Laurier’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives is building a pool of Indigenous knowledge holders and resources to continue encouraging the expansion of Indigenous thought and philosophy into and across the entire institution. We have also established a multi-campus Student Emergency Fund for Indigenous students. This fund supports Indigenous learners at Laurier who find themselves facing unforeseen financial crises.

Please consider supporting the Indigenous Knowledge Fund or making a gift to the multi-campus Indigenous Student Emergency Fund.

Your gift will continue to help support Indigeneity across the university, and eliminate barriers for Indigenous learners on our campuses.


Laurier’s Land Acknowledgement

Wilfrid Laurier University and its campuses are located on the shared traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon Treaty between the Haudenosaunee and Anishnaabe peoples and symbolizes the agreement to share, protect our resources and not to engage in conflict.

From the Haldimand Proclamation of Oct. 25, 1784, this territory is described as “six miles deep from each side of the river (Grand River) beginning at Lake Erie and extending in the proportion to the Head of said river, which them and their posterity are to enjoy forever.”

The proclamation was signed by the British with their allies, the Six Nations, after the American Revolution. Despite being the largest reserve demographically in Canada, those nations now reside on less than five per cent of this original territory.