Since its inception anti-Indigenous racism is foundational to the very structure of this country called Canada. From the criminalization of potlatches and pow wows to the pass/reserve system, from the banning of Indigenous languages in schools to the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families, from the sexualization of Indigenous bodies to the demonization of Indigenous spiritual practices, from forced isolation to the wholesale theft of Indigenous lands, Settler society has tried to rid Canada of Indigenous Peoples by any means necessary.

Residential schools played a pivotal role in this failed endeavor, as revealed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in its multi-volume 4000-page final report. Indigenous children held captive in schools from coast to coast to coast were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of priests, nuns and teachers. The report outlines 94 calls to action that would begin a process of healing.

Due to its namesake’s central role in the formation of residential schools University has a unique responsibility to attend to these calls, particularly the ones that pertain to education. So, University's Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), under the direction of Dr. Lila Pine, launched Saagajiwe, an Indigenous Communication and Creative Innovation Network.

The name Saagajiwe, given by an Elder in sacred ceremony, is an Anishinaabemowin word which means something like the first ray of light. Not simply the first ray of light in the morning, but the first ray of light since the beginning of time.

The mission of Saagajwe, therefore, is to facilitate the creation and dissemination of Indigenous ways of knowing. In so doing, we hope to do our small part in addressing the deep devastation caused by the racist practices outlined above. Loss of language and culture result in loss of nationhood and identity. When you take away someone’s identity you take away their sense of self. You damage their spirit. Furthermore, the systemic racism upon which Canada is founded creates barriers for First Nations Peoples to access education, employment, housing, even healthy food – all the things necessary for mino-bimaadiziwin.

Saagajiwe aspires to remove these barriers, creating opportunities for Indigenous youth to access language, education, traditional skills, culture, arts and knowledge. By offering Indigenous youth the tools they need to claim and define their own identities, they will find their own path to overcoming whatever barriers Settler society puts in their way.

Survival through Sovereignty