Moving from Northwestern Ontario to the GTA was quite a culture shock. Life was fast-paced, I took public transportation for the first time, and I felt like I did not belong here. My first year was particularly rough. I remember how lonely I felt not seeing other Indigenous students on campus. It didn’t help that the campus was still under COVID-19 regulations.

It wasn’t until my second year that I was able to contact UTM’s Indigenous Centre. While our community startup was small, I participated in workshops, luncheons, and even danced in UTM’s first powwow. In retrospect, I could not be more thankful for the friends I’ve made through our Indigenous community on campus.

Historically, the University of Toronto is a colonial institution. King’s College — the former University of Toronto — had been given 226,000 acres of crown land from the government to sell for profit. They were profiting off the land of Indigenous people.

Existing as an Indigenous person in an institution with settler-colonial history is empowering in itself. I’ve met other Indigenous students in my classes and introduced them to those working at the UTM Indigenous Centre. Indigenous voices need to be heard and celebrated in these institutions. Creating a community allows us to gather a collective voice to state our needs in reconciliation.

Through my artwork, I want to reflect on the celebration of our culture. Thinking back on last year’s powwow at UTM, I feel so proud that our community was able to come together. During my first year, I met so many other Native students who’ve had similar experiences as me. 

In the background of this piece, I illustrated three prominent buildings from each of our campuses. I wanted to show that, though my experiences have mostly been at UTM, it’s important to celebrate Indigenous communities on all of our campuses. The floral designs are important to me as an artist because as an Anishnaabe person, I want to be able to pay homage to the importance of our connection with nature. Because of this, I will often illustrate floral designs in my pieces.

I’m proud to attend UTM. Our school continues to provide opportunities to Indigenous students, including myself, allowing us to continue to thrive and build communities. Reconciliation from the university is an ongoing process, but gathering and amplifying Indigenous voices is a step in the right direction.