St Thomas U: Ancestral Indigenous Roots: STUdent Brittany Gray Launches Project AIR
Fifth-year psychology, human rights, and criminology STUdent Brittany Gray has created a resource program for Indigenous STUdents to learn more about their culture and ancestral roots.
Originally from Pabineau First Nation, Gray moved away from her community at a young age. She felt disconnected from Indigenous culture until high school when she said she was pulled to it again at a national Forum for Young Canadians in Ottawa where she learned about residentials schools.
“I felt a pain coming up in me that I had never felt before,” she said of the experience.
She said her search for answers led to a painful re-introduction to her culture.
“When I came to STU, anything Indigenous triggered me. I couldn’t go to class if it was brought up,” she said.
Gray said she even attempted to visit the Wabanaki Student Centre on campus—a place of celebration and support for many Indigenous students at STU—but she turned around because she felt too nervous.
“I didn’t know that aspect of myself,” she said.
“You belong to this community and always have”
Eventually, her experiences in class and an opportunity with STU’s Experiential and Community-Based Learning Office helped Gray understand her experience better and even led her to see how she could use it to help others who may feel similarly.
From this, came the idea for Project AIR.
Gray said the push came from a dream she had, in which Indigenous elders provided guiding words: “You belong to this community and always have.”
Knowledge, Culture, Community
Knowledge, culture, community are the pillars for Gray’s Project AIR, which will offer a Moodle resource page with teachings from elders and knowledge keepers; cultural and ceremony activities co-lead by fifth-year STUdent Rachel Burke; and a safe and supportive community hub.
Trenton Augustine, Indigenous Student Services Coordinator at STU says it’s been a pleasure working with Gray and seeing the level of student engagement in her project.
Gray hopes to expand Project AIR to other university campuses across Canada to help others connect to their culture.
“We are all at different stages in learning about our identity and that’s OK. I learn something new about my culture, teachings, and history almost every day,” Augustine said.
Gray is the Education Representative of the new STUSU STUdent Reconciliation Committee. She plans to pursue her master’s degree in counselling after graduating this summer with her Bachelor of Arts from STU.
Follow Project AIR’s journey and more Indigenous STUdent resources on Instagram:
Project Air: @projectair2020
Wabanaki Student Centre: @stu_wsc
Indigenous Students’ Reconciliation Committee: @stu_reconciliation