The AMS is starting to consider how to better represent its Indigenous members.
Rodney Little Mustache, a mature GRSJ student and member of the Piikani Nation of the Niitsitapi confederacy, ran for the AMS presidency last year and later released a letter containing 13 demands for change in the way Indigenous people are represented at UBC.
The document, he said, draws on the encounters he had with Indigenous folks over the years across Canada. It includes calls to increase the Indigenous presence in the AMS and in campus media organizations, including The Ubyssey, and advocates for policies that would benefit other marginalized populations, such as low-income students.
“It’s time to change those priorities to be more inclusive for everybody,” said Little Mustache. “Indigenous issues and low-income [students] should start being your priorities.”
Little Mustache unsuccessfully attempted to join the AMS Council’s advocacy committee as a member at large earlier this month.
“I was shocked that it was allowed to happen because there were elected officials in there and none of them stopped the process,” he said. “There was no other Indigenous people in there.”
The AMS has recently decided to organize an Indigenous student discussion circle to gather ideas, thoughts and impressions from the First Nations community on what this restructure should look like. The meeting, which will take place on October 2 in the First Nation Longhouse, is set to be a major discussion space between the student governing body and UBC’s Indigenous communities.
AMS President Marium Hamid said that the society wants this event to lead up to other forms of engagement through consultation with Indigenous students.
“We hope that this circle and the resulting conversation is the next step in determining what Indigenous communities here at UBC see as a meaningful change in AMS’s operations and advocacy,” she said.
“At this time, we are not proposing any new policies or structures until we have had the opportunity to meaningfully hear and consult Indigenous students … We will openly reflect on past injustices and how they will inform the structures and pathways of communication between communities.”
Although he is happy the event is taking place, Little Mustache referred to the consultation process as being typically European.
“That’s oppression — you’re still oppressing us here at the university by making us go through these different protocols that are foreign to us … and we have no choice but to do it or else we don’t get anything,” he said.
Instead, Little Mustache believes that in an ideal situation, the AMS should create assigned seats for Indigenous students on AMS Council to be filled in the next elections.
The AMS, however, is not considering structural changes until it has consulted the broad communities of Indigenous students, according to Hamid.
“At this time, we are not proposing any new policies or structures until we have had the opportunity to meaningfully hear and consult Indigenous students,” she said. “... We will openly reflect on past injustices and how they will inform the structures and pathways of communication between communities.”
When asked if he thinks the AMS would respond to the letter’s demands, Little Mustache believes that they will eventually be met.
“It’s not a question about if they’re going to do it, it’s about when they’re going to do it,” he said.