Community sponsors and partners were eager to set up on Mount Waddington’s North Island College (NIC) campus in preparation of an open house.
Information brochures and student resources were splayed out on community partner tables on top of free merchandise giveaways.
The event started around noon with students trickling in to finish their final registration forms. NIC faculty, instructors, and lifelong learners alike congregated together in the student lounge as hereditary chief George Hunt gave a Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwak’wala-speaking) traditional welcome. Maggie Sedgmore, Elder-in-residence, accompanied Hunt in giving a warm welcome to those beginning courses this fall semester.
“Gilakas’la (welcome), what a great honour to sit with educated people. It is a great honor to welcome you,” said Hunt, who noted the territory on which the campus was located sits on Kwakiutl traditional lands.
Hunt started the traditional welcome speaking fluently in Kwak’wala, and then immediately translated the speech to English. Sedgmore added “this is a wonderful campus … and it seems we have more people now. We have wonderful staff.”
“The programs here like Awi’nakola are offered here. It’s the second year it’s being offered. We have native authors we study from. We are reconnecting and I feel great to be a part of it. I feel I have something to offer. This is a wonderful day for orientation and to stand beside George,” Sedgmore concluded.
The Mount Waddington campus relocated last year and faculty expressed a sense of settling in. Faculty also noted concern over helping students any way they can during the learning process and listed the many resources students may use throughout the year.
The campus offers a variety of courses for students that are either working during the day, raising a family, or for any other reason that they may need to enroll part-time. Sara Child, NIC instructor and Kwakiutl Elder, teaches “Awi’nakola”, a new Indigenous land-based learning program.
The initiative grew out of response to calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The program allows students to study and practice Kwak’wala while also taking other courses at the college.
NIC provides other services to students, like offering an online program “Blackboard”, giving students accessible learning resources at their fingertips.
Community partners included North Vancouver Island Aboriginal Training Society (NVIATS), Community Futures, Building Blocks, Mt. Waddington Food Initiative, and Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre.
The college boasts an estimated enrolment of 60 students in the Mount Waddington region alone, many of whom are enrolled part-time, but hope to progress on to full-time university courses later on in their programs.
NIC faculty organizes the open house event annually near the start of the school year with support from the North Island Students’ Union and community partners.