York’s FES gets first Aboriginal centre & counsellor


Above: Randall Pitawanakwat 

Walk along the hallway on the second floor of the Lumbers Building and you’ll come to Room 219, the new location of the Aboriginal Resource Centre (formerly called the Native Canadian Theme Area) in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES). It will serve not only First Nations’ students at FES but, more broadly, support the cause of Aboriginal education at York.

One of the first occupants of the new space is Randall Pitawanakwat, who was appointed on Oct. 23 as York University’s first Aboriginal counsellor. The new position came after a year-long effort by Aboriginal students, faculty members and others who were working towards the creation of an Aboriginal education council at York, beginning with the appointment of a counsellor. With the recent receipt of funds from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Pitawanakwat’s appointment was announced by VP Students and Alumni Bonnie Neuman.

“I am very excited and at the same time honoured to be York”s first Aboriginal counsellor,” Pitawanakwat says of his new job. “We are breaking new ground in terms of seriously looking at and addressing the needs that pertain to Aboriginal programs and services. Providing culturally appropriate support services will only enhance the university life experience of the Aboriginal student population.

“The experience I bring from Cambrian College and working with First Nation communities and organizations is definitely an asset in applying and creating new opportunities here at York.”

Pitawanakwat will be providing advice to the University on “academic and non-academic resources, cultural information, and support to our First Nations and Aboriginal students,” says Neuman. “He will work closely with their association (FNASA) and will assist in the further development of an Aboriginal education council at York University.”

“The new Aboriginal counsellor”s location in the Lumbers Building is significant,” says FES Dean David Morley. “FES has had a Native Canadian Theme Area space for 25 years or so. We have taken the opportunity provided by the positive response of the University to actively promote Aboriginal education at York to sustain our involvement.

“Members of the Faculty – students and faculty – have played an important role in the creation of the counsellor”s position and in the development of an Aboriginal education council which is to follow soon…if funds can be obtained. The Faculty offered the space as a base for counsellor and council as well as continuing the Faculty”s tradition in the field. We have worked closely with colleagues in Education,  at Osgoode, and in other Faculties in supporting these initiatives.”

Pitawanakwat can be reached at 219B Lumbers, at ext. 22607, or by e-mail at rpitawan@yorku.ca. His colleague in the space adjacent to the Aboriginal Resource Centre is Dan Longboat, the latest Aboriginal faculty member in FES. Longboat can be reached at ext. 33281 or by e-mail at longboat@yorku.ca.

The above is an except of an article by Maxwell Brem, director of external relations, Faculty of Environmental Studies, about the new FES Aboriginal Resource Centre.