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Aboriginal partnership made official

Emma Reelis, president, St. John's Native Friendship Centre, shakes hands with Kent Decker, vice-president (administration and finance).

By Geoff Ash

Memorial's Aboriginal Resource Office (ARO) has had a long-standing partnership with the St. John's Native Friendship Centre (SJNFC), but the partnership became official at a special event on the St. John's campus this month.

Throughout the year, both partners collaborate on Aboriginal diversity awareness sessions, providing opportunities for Aboriginal students to maintain connections to their culture and to promote awareness of Aboriginal cultures to the university and the community.

At the signing event on June 8, participants were welcomed with a traditional Inuit song performed by Solomon Semigak, followed by the signing of a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Memorial University and the SJNFC. The MOU continues Memorial's commitment to Aboriginal initiatives, says Sheila Freake, co-ordinator of the ARO.

"Signing this MOU confirms the commitment that Memorial and the SJNFC have made to deliver culturally-relevant programs to our Aboriginal population attending Memorial," she said. "This is huge because it gives them the opportunity to continue to practise and learn about their respective cultures. It also gives them the opportunity to teach others about the various Aboriginal people within Newfoundland and Labrador, which I personally believe is a definite need."

Dr. Maura Hanrahan, special adviser to the president for Aboriginal affairs, was on hand during the event and added that the MOU signing was one of the recommendations of Memorial's 2009 Presidential Task Force on Aboriginal Initiatives.

"We very much want this mutually beneficial relationship to be part of Memorial's future as well as our past and present," she said.