On the path to Indigenization

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Okanagan College has experienced the fastest growth in its Indigenous student population of any institution in the sector. In 2015 the College delivered educational programming to more than 1,500 Aboriginal students.

Each of these students – along with the College’s Aboriginal employees, volunteers, partners and friends in the community – is a valued voice, a contributor to the diverse collection of knowledge and experiences that make up the Okanagan College community.

In 2015-16, the College made strides in its key direction of working with and learning from the Indigenous community.
Milestones included:
  • Sept. 24, 2015 – Signing of the Indigenous Education Protocol; Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton was joined at the signing ceremony by representatives of the Okanagan Indian Band, the Métis Association of Salmon Arm, the Ki-Low- Na Friendship Society, the Westbank First Nation, and the Métis Community Service Society of BC.
  • Sept. 24, 2015 – The College hosts the seventh annual Youth Exhibition Powwow.
  • Feb. 12, 2016 – Signing an MOU with Westbank First Nation; both partners committed to deepening this long-standing partnership.
  • May 3, 2016 – Announcement of a Project Manager for the College’s Indigenous Task Force that is working to develop an Indigenization plan outlining ways in which the College can better engage with, and learn from, the Indigenous communities we serve. Dr. Bill Cohen was named to lead the Task Force, assisted by Jennifer Leason.
  • June 15, 2016 – College hosts Indigenous Concepts of Knowledge Symposium. Members of Okanagan-Syilx and other BC First Nations participated, along with visiting scholars, students, professionals and community members.

“Indigenization is about strengthening connections with Indigenous knowledge, peoples, and place,” says Cohen. “Underpinning that process for the College will be continuing to build inclusive and respectful relationships with Indigenous people. It starts with acknowledging the Okanagan and Syilx people, on whose traditional territory we are situated, and from there it extends outwards.”

Okanagan College students contributed extensively to Aboriginal events, workshops, and cultural activities at the College, from the annual multicultural day at the Salmon Arm campus on March 23, which drew a crowd of over 100 students and community members to the 8th annual Youth Exibition Powwow on Sept. 15, 2016. Each year, as many as 1,000 students, faculty, and staff along with members of the general community enjoy this high profile event that showcases Aboriginal culture and dance. Their contributions also resonate in the College’s surrounding communities as well.

Okanagan College Bachelor of Business Administration student and Nisga’a Nation member Tina Miller joined forces with UBCO student Mary Song to help organize the fifth annual Women’s Memorial Vigil to Honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Kelowna on Feb. 14.

A crowd of about 50 gathered in front of the Kelowna courthouse to remember the victims, give voice to the ongoing tragedy, and provide healing support to families and friends of the victims.

It’s a cause that has personally affected Miller who experienced the loss of a family friend.

By co-organizing the vigil, Miller said she aimed to recognize and remind that her mother’s friend was someone who was loved and valued. “We will not forget her worth, her value or her life.”

Click here to go back to the OC Community Report 2016 homepage.