When Malijha Moyan was in high school, she wanted to go into law school. She decided to study Native studies at the University of Alberta for her undergraduate degree, with a plan to apply to law school after.
She then, however, learned about combined degrees — Moyan chose to also study education. After taking a few education courses, she realized that she wants to be a Braided Journeys teacher. Moyan is a Cree woman, and her family is from Kinuso, Swan River First Nation.
“When I was in high school, they had a Braided Journeys program for Indigenous students,” Moyan said. Braided Journeys is a high school completion program for Indigenous students that provides services and cultural programming.
“My experience at Braided Journeys is also, in part, what led me to the Indigenous Students’ Union (ISU),” she explained.
Currently, Moyan is a fourth-year student and president of the ISU. She joined the ISU in her first year, when she became the vice-president of internal and external relations. Moyan was in this role from October 2020 to May 2022, until she became president in April 2022.
Moyan shares both the rewarding and unrewarding parts of advocacy
Moyan has worked to impact the Indigenous student community through her advocacy work. However, there are some unrewarding aspects to advocacy, Moyan said.
“There’s a lot of stakeholders, non-Indigenous people wanting to consult with us on things. It just seems like a lot of work,” Moyan said. She added that people sometimes consult with the ISU just to “check it off the list [to say,] ‘we consulted with Indigenous people.’”
“I’m not all Indigenous people, right? I’m just myself. That part of Indigenous advocacy at the U of A is not so rewarding,” Moyan said. “It just feels like work without being compensated for it.”
Although there are downsides, Moyan said that the rewarding part of advocacy is directly helping Indigenous students.
“Or when there’s a specific issue that really affects Indigenous students, like the Clean Air Strategy,” Moyan said. The Clean Air Strategy, first proposed in 2021, called for a smoking ban on campus. At the October 16 General Faculties Council (GFC) meeting, which Moyan spoke at, the motion to recommend that the Board of Governors (BoG) direct administration to implement a policy that bans smoking on U of A campuses failed.
“I found that pretty rewarding to advocate for,” Moyan recalled. “It’s something that every Indigenous student that I talked to felt pretty passionate about.”
“I was able to say a bit of a speech at the start of that discussion, and other people had pretty great points that they brought up. It felt really good at the end when they did the vote, and it didn’t pass.”
Being president is usually fun, but sometimes stressful, Moyan shared. Being involved with the ISU has led Moyan to finding community and friends at the university. As well, she enjoys the work that she does.
“It’s just fun being able to work and knowing that I’m working to do something that’s going to benefit a bunch of people. I learned a lot about leadership, how to work together as a team, and how to motivate people.”
The ISU executive team includes seven people, which is a challenge according to Moyan. The executives are full-time students, many with jobs outside of school, which can make balancing responsibilities difficult.
“There has to be someone who compromises. It’s hard to stay organized when you don’t have much time for everyone to meet at the same time. Everyone’s busy. Everyone’s stressed out. We also don’t get paid, which kinda sucks,” Moyan explained. “But, it’s still rewarding.”
Moyan wants to make sure that “the ISU is in a good place” when she leaves
This is most likely Moyan’s last term as ISU president, she said. She has a few long-term goals that she hopes to accomplish that will benefit the ISU before then. These include renewing the ISU’s dedicated fee unit (DFU), and promoting the ISU’s child care subsidy. An additional goal is renovating the ISU lounge.
“We’ve all been working really hard together to complete that. It looks so much better than it looked when I first came to the ISU.”
Moyan also wants to have housing subsidies for Indigenous students, similar to the ISU’s child care subsidy.
“A lot of Indigenous students don’t originally live in Edmonton. For a lot of them, they don’t have very many family members who live here,” Moyan said. She hopes these subsidies would alleviate stress for full-time students that have to pay rent.
As well, Moyan is looking to establish honorariums for the ISU executives. “I really think that we should be paid on an honorarium,” she said. “I don’t think it’d be that much money. But, I think just something would be pretty good.”
These ideas are a part of Moyan’s overall goal — “making sure that the ISU is in a good place for when I leave.”
Moyan added that attending university is an exciting time in life, and she’s looking to make the most out of her time at the U of A.
“I think [university] is a really important and significant part of someone’s life. Make the most out of it — that’s what I’m doing, by being involved in leadership.”