Okanagan College Indigenization Internal Engagement

Okanagan College’s Indigenization Task Force is currently in our engagement phase with Indigenous communities, strengthening our valued partnerships as we continue to seek guidance and reflections on how the College can do a better job of working with, and learning from, Indigenous communities. We are in the process of having discussions with both the Syilx Okanagan and Secwepemc nations, local Indigenous organizations, and partners.  

Working with Indigenous communities and organizations over the past 16 years has brought the College tremendous support and guidance that has shaped where we are today.  Our ongoing relationships with communities have been fundamental to the progress made in programming, supports and services. We acknowledge that we have a long way to go to create more space and opportunities for Indigenous ways of knowing and doing. We look forward to working with Okanagan College staff and students in the next phase of engagement to continue these critical conversations on identifying areas where we can enhance our efforts.

Upcoming engagement sessions will allow you to share your knowledge and experiences and communicate educational needs and goals to help shape the Okanagan College Indigenization Plan.

As part of its strategic goals, Okanagan College is developing a long-term Indigenization plan to make the College a place where Indigenous students, employees, and communities can see themselves better reflected in the campus environment, programming, curriculum, processes, policies and structures, and where non-Indigenous students, employees, and organizations can learn more about Indigenous history and culture.  

Indigenization is an ongoing, multifaceted, and complex process of decolonization and reconciliation. This work of Indigenization involves continual supports, services, training, and development within every part of the College. As Justice Murray Sinclair states, “The road we travel is equal in importance to the destination we seek. There are no shortcuts. When it comes to truth and reconciliation we are forced to go the distance.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed and slowed our engagement planning process. That said, we will continue to strengthen the educational, physical, cultural, and spiritual places at Okanagan College, increasing Indigenous knowledge and culture on our campuses and within our curriculum. We maintain our commitment to making appropriate changes to College policies, structure, and process. One of our Indigenization framework's guiding theories is ongoing transforming praxis, which means continuously broaching these broad and deep realms of Indigenization work. 

Okanagan College is dedicated to achieving excellence in all areas of Indigenous education.

Some notable changes over the past year include piloting Indigenous cultural training and submitting funding applications for additional resources to expand service provisions. The Indigenization of campus space and places continues on all of our campuses. Indigenous gardens have expanded, and there have been new pictograph and story poles installed in Penticton. Our new Health Sciences Centre has a new Four Food Chiefs sculpture, other imminent installations, and we will be considering how planned student housing buildings in Kelowna, Vernon, and Salmon Arm can support our Indigenization objectives. 

Engaging with community partners and stakeholders is first and foremost as a means of privileging Indigenous voices in a holistic manner, ensuring we are hearing everyone’s voice. We will review and cluster input and insights gained into patterns and themes that emerge from the planned sessions. Those will be topics for Indigenous communities to review, and then conversations will follow with OC students and employees. Continual Indigenous community engagement throughout this entire process is an important aspect of our ultimate goal of identifying and understanding community-defined issues that can then serve to prompt further appropriate changes at the College.

Our engagement efforts reflect the College’s desire to be more responsive to and mindful of Indigenous learners and community partners. Through our Internal planning and development process, we will synthesize our collective input to strengthen our partnerships and understanding of community-based knowledge.

The goal is to generate further commitment to address areas identified by community. Our OC Indigenization plan will promote further changes to our institution, in ways that bring important shifts in how we see and engage with Indigenization.

Indigenous celebrations at OC

11 years of the Annual Youth Exhibition Powwow

Text: Celebrating the rich and vibrant culture of Indigenous peoples. Increasing awareness of Indigenous ways of knowing and doing, while creating a sense of belonging for all learners at OC. 

Youth Exhibition Powwow

2019 Powwow

Aboriginal Student Recognition Ceremony

Okanagan College hosts an annual special cultural ceremony recognizing student success, as they continue to make great strides in their schooling, personal lives and communities.

Aboriginal Recognition Ceremony

Student standing beside a story pole in the Na’ʔk’ʷulamən Garden on the Kelowna campus

Aboriginal Career Fair

One of the many career fairs and events that connect community and youth with post-secondary institutions and career options.


Aboriginal Career Fair

Business Expo 2020

Honouring Indigenous leaders at OC convocations since 2006

Okanagan College annually presents Honorary Fellow Awards to deserving individuals as part of our Convocation Ceremonies. The awards recognize distinguished achievement or service and the recipients represent a broad spectrum of regional, provincial, national and international contributions. The criteria for the award are mentorship, excellence, eminence and accomplishment.

A strong and growing connection

9.7% of our domestic student population at OC are students with Indigenous Ancestry. 

OC has seen a 16% increase in Aboriginal headcount from 2014-15 to 2018-19. Learning and working at OC brings together a large, diverse and welcoming learning community. 

  2014-15  2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
Indigenous student at OC 1630 1770 1795 1830 1890

Indigenous Awards

Okanagan College delivers over $75,000 in Aboriginal Specific awards annually including the Irving K. Barber Awards. 

This award validates and recognizes all my hard work. It means I can support myself and my daughter while I continue to pursue my dreams at Okanagan College. One of the biggest things being a single mother is I always need something for my daughter, and I don’t ever want to worry about not having what she needs.” 

-Sophie Wilson 
One of 16 OC students to receive an Indigenous Student Award from the Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society in December. 

Sophie Wilson sits at a picnic table at the Penticton campus

Indigenous programming and partnerships

Growing connections to Indigenous learners, communities, and organizations with partnership agreements, MOUs, MOAs, and laddering agreements with more than 20 bands, First Nation governments, agencies, and other post-secondary institutions. 

Over 50 contract funded programs delivered in Indigenous communities over the past three years.

  • Indigenous Inspired Professional Cook and Assistant Camp Cook 
  • Early Childhood Education Programming 
  • Construction Craft Worker Aboriginal Bridging 
  • Indigenous Studies Courses 
  • Stepping forward Upgrading and Essential Skills Programming 
  • Leadership Skills Certificate Program 
  • Aboriginal Community Support Worker 

Service, supports and student events

Supplementary learning sessions and programming that support students in their academics. 

While attending the College, you will have access to various academic and learning supports to help navigate through school while still achieving balance. 

An Aboriginal Centre at each campus. 

Staffed with Aboriginal Transition Planners, peer mentors, and visiting Elders help to support students through their educational journey. 

Aboriginal Services

Promoting holistic well-being and building a community of peers through social events and physical programming 

We provide a series of workshops and ongoing supports at each campus aimed to uphold traditions and enrich the students’ experience at Okanagan College. 

Space and place

Working with local communities, Okanagan College has committed to ensuring that campus spaces respectfully incorporate elements of Indigenous culture into the design and function of buildings. Click through the slides below to explore these elements.

Reconciliation, relationships and next steps

Given the history of education in Canada, Okanagan College recognizes the need to change our existing College programming, processes and policies in a way that creates more space for Indigenous ways of knowing and doing. 

To do so constructively we must remain committed to work of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships. 

We all need to learn ways in which we can practice reconciliation efforts in our everyday lives - within ourselves, families, communities, governments, learning environments, and our workplace. 

Coming together, fostering stronger relationships and including elements of truth, sharing and healing. 

While there have been great efforts in advancing Indigenous education at Okanagan College, we also acknowledge that we have a long way to go to create more space and opportunities for Indigenous ways of knowing and doing. 

To that end, we are developing a long-term plan to make Okanagan College a place where Indigenous students, employees and communities can see themselves better reflected in the campus environment, programming, processes, policies and structures, and where non-Indigenous students, employees and communities can learn about Indigenous history and culture. 

For more information contact:

Anthony Isaac

Indigenous Services Manager Seconded to: Indigenization, Project Manager
Office: Student Services Building 124B
Campus: Kelowna
Phone: 250-762-5445 ext. 4322
Anthony Isaac, Aboriginal Services and Indigenization

Anthony is currently Seconded to Indigenization, Project Manager

Anthony joined Aboriginal Services at Okanagan College in 2014. He is Ojibwe, and belongs to the Ajijaak Indoodem (Crane Clan) and comes from Bkejwanong Territory, otherwise known as Walpole Island First Nation located in South Western Ontario. He earned a BSc degree in Health Sciences at the University of Western Ontario. Continuing in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Anthony completed his Master’s degree in Occupation Science, focusing his photovoice research on the occupational injustices faced by First Nations youth as they pursued post-secondary education. He has over 15 years of experience working in Indigenous education. Anthony feels honored to live, work and play here on the traditional and unceded territories of the Syilx Okanagan and Secwepemc peoples.