A statue of Mother Earth now greets people entering one the University of Ottawa’s main buildings, where it stands as a reminder of Indigenous culture on campus — a recognition some say has been lacking.
The 2.5-metre-tall granite sculpture, a stylized depiction of a dancing woman in a shawl, was created by Indigenous artist David General and stands on the lawn outside Tabaret Hall.
“We really want students to feel like they recognize themselves on campus,” said Tareyn Johnson, the university’s first director of Indigenous affairs.
“When Indigenous people are on campus, they’ll see it and they’ll recognize that there are steps being taken to integrate them more into the University of Ottawa.”
By having the sculpture outside the main administration building, it will be visible to a lot of people, Johnson told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.
“This university hasn’t had a lot of Indigenous content or equity and diversity in the past,” she said.
Johnson said she hopes that will change with the Indigenous action plan being embedded in the university’s official strategic plan. She said the university administration and the president have been focused on inclusion, diversity and equity.
The sculpture in being introduced as the university is dealing with accusations of systemic racism on campus following a pair of carding incidents.
In June, a black student reported being handcuffed by campus security officers after he failed to produce identification.
Another student said he was barred from entering his own residence by a security officer less than two weeks after the university said it had changed its policy on carding.