TRU Aboriginal Education along with the TRU Aboriginal Mentor Program celebrated the 7th annual Moose Hide Campaign on Feb. 15 in the Campus Activity Centre.
The event was held in conjunction with the Moose Hide Campaign Development Society, to stand up against the violence to indigenous women and children.
First Nations members and TRU students gathered in solidarity for the day long event, to share their personal experiences and to help raise awareness of the growing epidemic of violence in Aboriginal communities.
David Archie, Traditional Wellness Coordinator at the Secwepemc Health Caucus, shared some of his personal struggles and what the Moose Hide Campaign meant to him.
“We want safety for all of us, and it starts with us showing up,” Archie said. “The Moosehide Campaign is important because we have so many youth who don’t feel valued and we need to repair those circles together.”
Paul Michel, TRU Executive Director of Aboriginal Affairs, was also present.
“This day is for the men to revitalize their traditional roles,” Michel said. “The women are always the ones leading, I want to challenge the men to step up because we’re also healers.”
Addressing the increased tensions in society Michel also added, “We know that there is a rise of hatred and racism in Canada. Today is about harmony, spirituality; the foundation of respect.”
A Smudging Circle was also held outside the Campus Activity Center. Archie, who led the ceremony, explained that the circle was a place to offer a prayer, and the opportunity to get rid of negativity.
He also said smudging circle prayers offer wellness on a day-to-day basis, that benefit the mental, physical and emotional state.
An eagle fan was used to spread smoke made from burning sage and cedar in a small shell. While traditional songs were sung along to the beat of a drum, smoke was fanned on praying students.
This was followed by a large sharing circle held back in the activity center.
Vernie Clement, TRU Aboriginal Mentor & Community Coordinator, explained that the circles were meant for sharing and healing and to give one the opportunity to speak about what was on their heart.
The sharing circle featured stories from elders who gave accounts of their experiences growing up in reservation schools, as well as stories from men and women who suffered injustice at the hands of the judicial system.
One participant admitted that he wanted to try and be a better person for his family, while another said he was grateful to the Moosehide Campaign for giving him a chance to support women and children.
Jordan Smith, a professor at TRU, said she was proud of her students for supporting the cause and emphasized the importance for young people to find their voices.
TRU’s Moose Hide Campaign offered a platform to many First Nations who were first-hand victims, or who had family members and friends who had been marginalized, oppressed or abused.
“Thinking a lot about when I first heard about the Moose Hide Campaign, coming from the reserve system, knowing what cultural genocide looked like, I knew that that’s not how I wanted my life to continue on,” Clement said.