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HBA Sustainability Certificate: A Closing Ceremony that opened new doors

Mar 21, 2019

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Students surround Amanda Kennedy, the founder of Yotuni and a Sustainability Certificate program mentor, in a "living tree."

Ivey Business School is situated on the territories of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lunaapewak, and Attawandaron peoples. We pay respect to the land and to Elders past, present, and future.

Helen Schreyer is an HBA1 student. She is part of Ivey’s Sustainability Certificate program and took part in its closing ceremonies. She blogs about the experience.

The Closing Ceremony for Ivey’s Sustainability Certificate began with a storytelling and ended with a body sculpture of more than 60 students, faculty, Indigenous, and non-Indigenous peoples across generations joining hands to become a living tree.

The ceremony started with a shared meal provided by Three Sister's Catering. Students learned about the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash, traditionally said to be a gift from Mother Earth in Indigenous creation stories.

We were also in for a special treat: doughnuts for Hoyan, an Oneida word that roughly translates to “another one” and is used to celebrate the New Year. These traditional dishes were shared in a similarly traditional way: together around a table and over storytelling.

The two hours that followed were touching, challenging, and inspiring.

A community of potential

Ivey had the honor of welcoming JP Gladu, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. Gladu began his keynote by sharing his renowned imitation of a moose’s mating call, but he quickly turned to more serious matters.

“Economic reconciliation occurs when Aboriginal communities are no longer managing poverty, but are managing wealth,” he said.

He challenged us to reconsider the potential that Indigenous communities hold, currently contributing an annual $32 billion to the Canadian economy, and capable of so much more. Economic contribution would quadruple if Indigenous communities had access to the same resources and opportunities as the average Canadian population.

“Although the best time to plant a tree was 100 years ago, the next best time is today,” he added.

Learning about relationships

Next, we heard from Chantelle Richmond, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health and Environment.

Richmond introduced us to Indigenous Knowledge, the teachings about our relationship with the land and one another that are passed down by Elders through oral transmission. Richmond spoke personally about the dispossession that stains her family’s history, as both land and children were taken by the government and its residential schools. She called attention to implicit bias, and how it leads to differential treatment, and challenged us to think about the “truth” in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (see Call 92 – Business and Reconciliation).

Richmond also spoke to the opportunity – and obligation - that our education system has to create more than good students, but good people. As a student, this challenged and reminded me of what I should be seeking to learn from my education.

Sharing the journey

Ivey Professor Tima Bansal, Canada Research Chair in Business Sustainability, closed the night by facilitating a panel discussion and asking students to share what they learned as participants in the HBA Sustainability Certificate.

This was our way of saying thank you and giving back to those who journeyed with us this year. Let me share the highpoints of my participation:

  • First, thank you for teaching us how to value and respect our land and each other. In a business school that is driven by material bottom lines, these deeply human and living assets are largely overlooked; and,
  • Second, thank you for welcoming us into communities and relationships that we otherwise would not have had the opportunity to enter. Indigenous Knowledge can only be shared by invitation – largely due to its oral transmission – and this year we were welcomed generously with open arms. You taught us to see things differently and to look in different places. We won’t forget the gifts you gave us this year.

Miigwetch. Thank you.

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