Suswaaning Endaajig officially welcomes Aboriginal students to campus

The dancing and drumming may have stopped but the buzz can still be heard on campus.

On November 25, Durham College officially opened Suswaaning Endaajig (the nest away from home), the new Aboriginal Student Centre located in the Simcoe building at the Oshawa campus.

“This new centre reinforces our collective commitment to our mission statement that the student experience comes first,” said Lovisa. “It meets our goal of providing all students with quality learning experiences, support in finding fulfilment in education, employment, productive citizenship and lifelong learning.”

The event was held in a heated tent outdoors with approximately 70 guests in attendance including government and community supporters, faulty, staff and students. In addition to traditional dancing and drumming, a smudging ceremony was presided over by Gerard Sagassige, an Ojibway Elder, and remarks were offered by Alayne Bigwin, director, Aboriginal Education Office, Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; Art Beaver, chair, Durham College Aboriginal Advisory Circle; Amanda French and Sherry Ann Zwetsloot, students and Don Lovisa, president, Durham College.  

Embracing teachings from all First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, Suswaaning Endaajig strives to recognize and support Aboriginal students through various activities and teachings with the assistance of Elders from all backgrounds.

The goal and teachings of the centre are tied closely to the holistic practices of the Medicine Wheel, which promotes living in a balanced way through the connectivity of its physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual quadrants.

“After coming across an article in the student paper, The Chronicle, I immediately came to the Suswaaning Endaajig,” said Zwetsloot, a Mohawk of the Iroquois Confederation and a second-year Advertising and Marketing Communications Management student. “I could see the symbols, pictures and stories of our people and our customs. I could smell the sweet grass and see the smiles of Elders who were there to guide us spiritually and I instantly felt at ease.”

The new centre offers a culturally recognizable and inviting environment for Aboriginal learners; materials for Aboriginal crafts; staff members who advocate on behalf of students within and outside of the college with any issues; traditional Elders who will be available regularly for private one-on-one counselling; a series of traditional teachings held throughout the year; and much more.