The eternal optimist
By Derrick Kunz
Max FineDay has stories to tell. Those he chooses to share tell a lot about him, his attitudes, his priorities and his vision for the University of Saskatchewan.
FineDay, a member of Sweetgrass First Nation, has lived in Saskatoon his entire life, except a year he spent travelling after high school. During my conversation with him, he alluded to challenges he has faced as a young Aboriginal person, but he always focused on the present opportunities instead of past injuries.
Going into his fourth year as a political studies major, FineDay is the president of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU), the second consecutive Aboriginal person to be elected to the post.
Political studies seemed like a natural path for FineDay. “Being an Aboriginal person in Canada, pretty much everything in your life is political,” said FineDay, adding that generations of political decisions affect everything from government structures to living conditions. “Going into political studies was a choice I made to better understand these issues and bring an Aboriginal voice to make healthier communities. “I love academia,” said the self-described bookworm. “I’ll read anything on Canadian or Saskatchewan politics, history or contemporary nation building.” He likes to “stick to Canadian writing as much as possible,” including poetry. FineDay has even penned his own poems that will be featured in an anthology of First Nations and Métis poetry being compiled by Neal McLeod (BA’92, MA’96).
Being an “eternal optimist,” FineDay is confident he can achieve results for students during his year as president. He sees somewhat of a culture shift on campus. FineDay said, “People were willing to vote for someone who’s not like them. It’s not ‘us versus them’ or ‘you’re different from me and that’s scary.’ People are willing to hear you out, and that’s a positive and hopeful thing for our campus. I am humbled and grateful to be given this opportunity.”
Another thing FineDay is grateful for is the beginning of construction on the Gordon Oakes- Red Bear Student Centre. “I remember being welcomed at the Aboriginal Student Centre my first week here. Older students said, ‘We’re getting a brand new student centre right away.’ My second year I was telling the new students the same thing. It was like we were passing down a legend every year.”
FineDay is quick to give credit to past USSU presidents for lobbying and working with university administrators to keep construction of the centre a top priority.
Noting the U of S is already a leader in post-secondary education for First Nations and Métis students, FineDay said, “It’s crucial to help Aboriginal students and make them more likely to stay. There are lots of challenges Indigenous students face on campus. Building partnerships and working together is important.”
FineDay recognizes alumni are important partners for students. He invites all alumni to “come and talk to students and make partnerships” with both Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal students. “We need to see successful alumni in various walks of life, to be exposed to folks who have gone to the same university, to be introduced to opportunities out there.” FineDay said financial donations are also a great way for alumni to support students.
All these things may not come to full fruition under FineDay’s watch as president, but he remains an optimist, confident the U of S will be stronger and continue to add stories of shared opportunity.