What makes home, home? Especially when you are off to post-secondary school on a journey to embark on a new home away from home. For the first time, Western University is offering an Indigenous-focused floor in Residence.
Associate Vice-President of Western Housing, Peggy Wakabayashi, says over the past 10 years there’s been a steady increase in Western’s Indigenous population, nearly doubling. “Though not every indigenous student has come forward to let us know of their ancestors, so it can be hard to track.”
There are about 36 Indigenous students living throughout Western’s Residences, and five of them live on the interest-based floor. Western’s Housing Department was able to contact the students that identified as Indigenous to the University, and chose Delaware Hall as their building choice to invite them to live on the floor.
Indigenous Services Program Coordinator, Sean Hoogterp explains why students might not come forward to identify. “They’re either embarrassed by their culture because of societal constructs. They’re afraid because they might not have grown up in a spiritual community, but are seeking more cultural understanding. Or, possibly, they are just private people.” Hoogterp is encouraging more students to come out because Indigenous Services is here to support them.
Meet Grace Swain
Grace Swain is a first-year Indigenous student living on the floor who has confirmed the students living there have opened up to a new appreciation and understanding for the culture. The hope is that this Indigenous living-learning community floor will encourage more students to identify with their culture, even if it means students are learning about it for the first time.
“We are living in a time where more students are identifying than ever before, and that’s because society is slowly changing what it means to be an Indigenous person,” explains Hoogterp.
RezLife at Western University is holding an Indigenous Student & Ally Meet N’ Greet in Delaware Hall at 5:30pm. Indigenous Elders, Indigenous Services, and members from Western Housing will be coming out to welcome everyone home. Together, everyone will smudge on the floor in celebration of this new beginning.