Okanagan College and several First Nations and Metis partners have signed a commitment that recognizes the school’s responsibility and commitment to indigenous education and collaboration with Aboriginal communities.
The Indigenous Education Protocol was developed by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICAN) through its Indigenous Education Committee. (That committee was chaired by Ken Tourand, President of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. It was signed on Thursday as part of the Seventh Annual Powwow at the College’s Kelowna campus.)
“Okanagan College has been strengthening our service and connection to the First Nations and Metis of our region over the past decade,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We have seen significant growth in the number of Aboriginal students who choose our institution for their education. Last year, we had 1,535 Aboriginal students attend OC, more than three times the number who attended in 2005-06.”
“We have introduced several programs specifically focused on Aboriginal learners and collaborated with bands individually and jointly on a number of projects in recent years.”
“While that is heartening, we know there is much yet to be done,” says Hamilton, “We can do more in terms of access and supporting student success, and in working with bands and friendship centres, Metis groups and other associations to learn indigenous knowledge, culture and traditions for the benefit of all.”
Okanagan College was joined at the signing ceremony by representatives of the Okanagan Indian Band, the Metis Association of Salmon Arm, the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, the Westbank First Nation, and the Metis Community Service Society of BC.
Allan Louis, an Okanagan Indian Band Councillor, is an alumnus of Okanagan College. He recognized the importance of education for the Aboriginal community and the significant growth that has taken place at the College since he attended in the early 1990s. “There were only five First Nations students here then,” he told a crowd of hundreds Thursday as he participated in the signing ceremony. “This many students is tremendous. Education is key for our community.”