NEWS

Aboriginal students, staff at McGill University call for more recognition

04/23/2015 09:46 EDT | Updated 07/21/2015 02:59 EDT
Some students and staff at McGill University say the school isn't doing enough to include aboriginal people.

The university only has one monument, Hochelaga Rock, to acknowledge that the campus was built on the site of an old Iroquois village and likely visited by Jacques Cartier in the 1500s.

But the rock marking this history goes largely unnoticed.  

"I have no idea [what it is] I've never paid attention to it unfortunately," said McGill student Mohammad Reza Gholipour, who walks by the rock every day.

"I think it should be promoted in a better way. I had no idea."

Kakwiranoron Cook, McGill's aboriginal outreach administrator, would like to see the university put up a more noticeable monument.

"We're the most under-represented of any group at the university, whether you're talking about students, staff or faculty," Cook said.

McGill currently has fewer than 200 aboriginal students, and no indigenous professors have tenure.

Cook said aboriginal students would feel more at home if there were more recognition that the campus sits on native territory.

"It helps with our collective healing and reconciling our differences, to really acknowledge and really move forward together," Cook said, adding that things are improving, but slowly.

Students say action should be taken more swiftly.

"It was just this year that our Indigenous Studies Minor was launched. So we are quite far behind a lot of other schools that have had indigeneous studies programs since the 60s-70s," said Claire Stewart-Kanigan, vice-president of university affairs at the Student Society of McGill University.

Students have written letters calling for the rock to be moved to a more prominent spot.

"It would be very meaningful for the community. A lot of bang for your buck if you will. But it's been on the agenda for the last five years at least, and there hasn't been any meaningful action taken on it," Stewart-Kanigan said.

University officials told CBC Montreal that they are considering building a path that leads to the rock.

A committee is also meeting to come up with a proposal for other tributes to McGill's aboriginal history.

MORE:cbcNews