By: Jonathan Marshall

A series of events for Revitalizing Indigenous Strength and Education (RISE) month will be taking place at Carleton over the month of January.

RISE 2017 is a series of lectures, workshops, and open events in January developed by the Mawandoseg Centre at Carleton to renew various Indigenous cultural practices, and introduce non-Indigenous students to the different nations that are active on campus and in Ottawa.

Tess Laude, the co-ordinator of the Mawandoseg Centre, said she has been working with community leaders, external partners, and several volunteers to bring traditional practices and modern issues to the forefront of student awareness.

“The purpose of RISE is to enhance and promote discussions around Indigenous sexuality and sexual health,” Laude said.

While the series had a wider focus last year, RISE 2017 will take a more in-depth look at how young adults can properly educate themselves on healthy sexual relationships, according to Laude.

“We have planned events that demonstrate the ways in which native peoples are actively [re]-claiming and celebrating our own understandings and practices of sexuality,” Laude said.

There are nine events planned for the month of January, including craft workshops, open discussion groups for men and women, and a return of Tipi Confessions, where students can share their views and experiences in a welcoming and friendly environment.

The first event was Native Snag Lines on Jan. 6, where students helped create a video designed to teach their Indigenous-themed pick-up lines to a young person. Charlotte Hoelke, an organizer for the event, said it was an alternative way to present knowledge to a new generation.

“I think all of us have these hang-ups, or have discomforts, or different challenges talking openly about sexuality,” she said. “I’m hoping this event means we can all have a laugh, celebrate, and talk with each other and share our different perspectives and understandings around sexuality.”

One of the participants in the video was Ashley Courchene, the former co-ordinator for the Mawandoseg Centre and Carleton University Students’ Association vice-president (student services). He said he was satisfied with the increase in volunteers for RISE 2017 and with the selected theme of sexuality awareness.

“Normally when people hear about native people, it’s usually political and almost always negative. RISE’s theme is neither negative nor political in the traditional sense,” Courchene said.

He added he has noticed how much the Mawandoseg Centre has grown since last year, but said there are still difficulties to reflect on.

“As much as some Indigenous scholars critique reconciliation for being a term that only assuages settler guilt, I think reconciliation can work if there are elements of decolonization included in it,” Courchene said. “Decolonization is merely unlearning and undoing the colonial systems that exist in our society.”

RISE 2017 events will go until Jan. 27, and upcoming events include a paint night and a burlesque workshop.