September 25, 2020

BY SARA HANAFI

A very unconventional surprise was presented to the Aboriginal Services Centre during a traditional ceremony held this past May.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada’s president Brian Krinock presented Conestoga president John Tibbits and Aboriginal Services manager Myeengun Henry with a $20,000 donation to support Aboriginal programming at Conestoga.

The donation was presented during a teepee-raising celebration hosted by Aboriginal Services at Conestoga’s Doon campus. Students and other members of the Aboriginal community who attended saw the teepee raised, and then were treated to celebratory drumming, singing and traditional food, such as corn soup and buffalo meat.

Henry said the donation stemmed from a speech that Liberal Leader Bob Rae gave at Conestoga last year during which he talked about a lack of funding for the Aboriginal Services department. The Waterloo Region Record ran a story on Rae’s speech, which was read by Ray Tanguay, the chairperson of Toyota Canada. He came to visit the school and one month later, the company gave a donation to Aboriginal Services.

The donation will be used to secure and retain students, as well as upgrade the Aboriginal student centre to accommodate the growing population, which recently surpassed 500 students. Additionally, a portion of the donation will be used to fund the annual pow-wow in February, which would not have been held otherwise.

The Aboriginal Services Centre is entering its third year at Conestoga.  Services, including lessons on how to make dream catchers, free lunches every Wednesday and Aboriginal teachings, are open to anyone who is interested.

Since the ceremony in May, the teepee has been taken down so a “Welcome Back Teepee Raising Ceremony” can be held on Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. behind the Woodworking Centre.