Indigenous Access McGill Holds 5th Annual Retreat

The Faculty of Arts newsletter

At the 5th Annual IAM retreat.

At the 5th Annual IAM retreat.

Indigenous Access McGill (IAM), in partnership with First Peoples’ House (FPH) just held their 5th annual IAM retreat at McGill’s Gault Nature Reserve.

The annual event is held for all Indigenous students at McGill as well as their families, and focuses on community building with activities that include a sharing circle, meditation, yoga, hiking, and beading.

As IAM’s coordinator Courtney Montour explains, “the retreat gives Indigenous students a unique opportunity to exchange stories that give insight about their individual and shared experiences as students at McGill.”

IAM team members Michael Loft and Trudy Blumstein congratulate 3 Indigenous BSW graduates.

IAM team members Michael Loft and Trudy Blumstein congratulate 3 Indigenous BSW graduates.

Created in 2007, IAM was initially designed to assist McGill’s School of Social Work to give greater support to First Nations and Inuit students through recruitment initiatives, ongoing mentoring, tutoring, and summer support programs. Its main goal was to increase the number of Indigenous students at McGill in the School of Social Work and provide them with the tools, training and support to graduate, make a difference in their communities, shape Indigenous issues that affect Canadian society more broadly and become ambassadors to encourage the next generation of Indigenous students to stay in school, and seek higher education.

Today, the project provides outreach and student support services to Indigenous students as well as office accommodation and information technology (IT) support, and has also allowed the School to examine the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) curriculum with a view to adding content and pedagogy that better integrates Indigenous issues.

IAM focuses on making the BSW more attractive to Indigenous students who wish to follow a career in social work both in their own communities and elsewhere, and to non-Indigenous students with an interest in Indigenous issues.

The project was instrumental to the development of a four-week Aboriginal Field Studies course, a four-week intensive which includes one week in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory. As Montour explains, this unique course provides an opportunity for students from Social Work, Law, Medicine and Anthropology to learn about Indigenous cultures and worldviews, with a particular emphasis on Iroquoian teachings and their connection to the students’ areas of practice, under the instruction of community elders and a multidisciplinary team of instructors. So far, close to 100 students have taken part in the course.

Prior to IAM, Indigenous students enrolled in the School of Social Work were few and far between. But since the program began there has been a steady increase in the number of Indigenous students. Montour says a total of 8 BSW students and 4 MSWs have graduated and that the School currently has 8 undergraduate students and 1 PhD student in the program.

To learn more about Indigenous Access McGill, contact Courtney Montour at 514-398-2129, or via email.

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