Edwards Indigenous students aim to build community with new event

Mikaila Ortynsky

When Aubrey-Anne Pewapisconias-Laliberte entered the Edwards School of Business (Edwards) in the fall of 2017, she felt a desire to enhance the community among Indigenous students. 18 months later, Pewapisconias-Laliberte and classmate, Jessica Mirasty, created the Indigenous Business Students’ Society.

Pewapisconias-Laliberte said the idea to start the new Edwards student group is to have “a community Indigenous students could be a part of where we could talk about our traditions and ceremonies while taking our degrees [in addition to] different discriminations we face and felt.” Pewapisconias-Laliberte stresses the importance of being supportive of each other. “We dedicate half our meetings to just talking about what that person week, whether it has to do with their culture or not,” she said.

The IBSS is not restricted to Edwards students. About 25 percent of their continually growing membership are students from the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) who are intending to transfer to the Edwards after completing their business certificate or diploma.

“Our relationship with the group at SIIT is between two students who have contact with their faculty and staff and create rapport with their students,” said Pewapisconias-Laliberte.

She hopes that collaborating with students at SIIT will act as a bridge when students transfer to ensure an easy transition and access to resources to finish their degree.

“We have an open-door policy, we are a student society in the Edwards School of Business but welcome other students from different colleges to join our membership,” she said. 

Over 50 Indigenous and non-Indigenous students from SIIT and the University of Saskatchewan attended the inaugural IBSS Networking Gala at Gordon Oakes Red Bear Centre on March 7. The format included two business representatives seated with four students from Saskatoon-based organizations; many representatives are Indigenous. Different from many student galas, the IBSS Networking Gala included Indigenous traditions including a prayer from an Elder and drummers in addition to Indigenous motivational speakers.

“It’s a networking event to celebrate Indigenous achievement and to see what other people have done in the community,” she said
Pewapisconias-Laliberte believes that it is beneficial for students to see that there is a place for them in large corporations. “Everything we face both within our institutions and outside, it’s easy for us to lose hope on what we do, this event will help push Indigenous students further in their degrees and remind them of what they can achieve when they finish.”

For many members of the IBSS, they consider the group a family. Pewapisconias-Laliberte acknowledged that many members come from a variety of backgrounds; they are mature students, parents, or are transitioning from high school. She encourages other students to join the IBSS by visiting their Facebook page, “we are open to everybody and want there to be an Indigenous community on campus where people can join together and talk about what they face in their time here.”


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