The university’s first annual Dreamcatcher Round Dance was all about honouring our youth – an important and fitting message given that the round dance is tied to the Dreamcatcher Indigenous Youth Conference, which has been hosted by the university’s Faculty of Health and Community Studies for the past 26 years.
More than 500 youth, MacEwan students, faculty and staff, dignitaries, Elders and members of the community attended the round dance hosted by kihêw waciston. The round dance capped off MacEwan Day, an opportunity for Dreamcatcher attendees from across the province to experience life on campus.
“MacEwan Day and the round dance itself are about inspiring and teaching hopefulness and openness around post-secondary education, and coming together in ceremony,” explains Terri Suntjens, kâ-nêkânêstahk iyiniw pamihtamowina – director of Indigenous initiatives. “It’s about connecting students to their culture, learning about education after high school and helping these young people to be able to see themselves in a space like this.”
That’s important, given that Indigenous youth are underrepresented in post-secondary education – while 29.3 per cent of Canadians graduate with university degrees, only 10.9 per cent of Indigenous people have a university education, as MacEwan University President Deborah Saucier, discussed recently in an opinion piece published in Macleans Magazine.
“Wherever you choose to go to school and whatever you choose to study, know that you belong on campuses like this one, that your contributions are valuable,” President Saucier said to youth as part of her welcome message at the round dance. “And that there are many people out there – including those of us in this room – who will be there on the sidelines supporting you and cheering you on.”
“The round dance is an opportunity to connect Dreamcatcher attendees with their culture, and to engage our community,” says Terri Suntjens.
Hal Eagletail, a Dreamcatcher Round Dance master of ceremonies, addresses the more than 500 people who attended the event.
Roxanne Tootoosis (centre), an Indigenous knowledge keeper at MacEwan University, takes part in the round dance.
Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan participating in the round dance.
“We invited students, faculty and staff who may never have been to a round dance before, and welcomed people from our community,” says Terri Suntjens of the event, which was co-hosted by the City of Edmonton. City Councillor Aaron Paquette was also at the event to bring greetings to attendees.