Aboriginal students: Let's stick together

Yes, there is a common aboriginal culture, if by that is meant a feeling of common interest and shared perspective among native people from coast to coast to coast.

The subject sparked lively discussion among panelists at one of the events in the four-day Dialogue on Diversity, hosted by the School of Graduate Studies from January 24 to 28.

The presenters were all First Nations students at Concordia: Geronimo Inutiq, Delores Pratt-Houseman, Philip Deering and Joel Labillois.

"We identify with each other by being outside of the culture of the dominant society," said Pratt-Houseman, who is Métis. The panelists agreed on some shared values: the importance of silence and reflection, a deep respect for nature, and, of course, a good sense of humour.

Canadian culture tends to strengthen aboriginal cultures, they decided. "We have a common culture created unwittingly by the bureaucrats," Labillois said, because all First Nations are compelled to work together to address common issues. Intituq agreed, saying, "We all come from small communities with big-city problems" -- poverty, unemployment and ill health.

The panelists agreed that the emphasis should be put on solving problems together, not on the differences between native communities in language, custom and geography. Moderator Corinne Jetté, Professor of Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Tuscarora First Nation, summed it up: "We are all related," she said.

- Patricia Story


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