North Island College renaming ceremony took place at the campus with chiefs, elders, drummers to welcome the new name Mixalakwila. Speeches by NIC president John Bowman, board of governor’s Jane Murphy and Port Hardy recognized guests. Photo by Kim Stallknecht

North Island College campus adopts First Nations name

Port Hardy regional campus will now be known as Mix̱alakwila

North Island College has received a Kwak’wala name for its Port Hardy/Mount Waddington Regional campus. The campus will now be known as Mix̱alakwila, meaning “maker of what’s been dreamt about.”

Elders from several communities and Chief George Hunt participated in a series of gatherings to choose the name. The conversations included rich discussions of what NIC and access to education means to First Nations communities and Indigenous learners.

The Elders chose Mix̱alakwila because they believe the College is a place where your dreams for the future can come true.

“I want to thank the Elders and community members who have honoured us with this new campus name,” said NIC president John Bowman. “NIC’s first Indigenous campus re-naming is a historic event for the college. It signals a permanent, ongoing commitment that Indigenous Education is a priority and that we value the relationships established with First Nations communities.”

The naming is in alignment with NIC’s strategic plan Plan2020, which includes a commitment to enhancing Indigenous-centred services, learning environments, student and community spaces and learner success.

“Naming the NIC campus in Kwak’wala recognizes and honours the traditional territory of the Kwagu’ł and is an important step towards reconciliation,” said Sara Child, NIC’s Aboriginal education facilitator. “We hope the new campus name will feel welcoming, especially for those who may have previously felt excluded from higher learning and create a place where their Indigenous identity and knowledge are respected.”

The campus will officially be known as the Mix̱alakwila campus or NIC’s Mix̱alakwila campus in Port Hardy.

NIC offers free Kwak’wala language courses at all its campuses including Introduction to Kwak’wala I & II (KWA-096 & 097) and Introduction to U`Mista Orthography (KWA-098) and is also in the process of developing a new certificate in Indigenous language which will be a certificate in fluency building.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) have established the rights of Indigenous peoples to communicate, develop and share culture and be educated in their own languages, but there is a shortage of support for Indigenous language learning opportunities, noted Child.

“This program is intended to be a small step to fill the gap and support the aspirations of the nations we serve,” she said. “Our Elders have been warning us for decades and demanding that actions be taken to support the resurgence of our languages and restoration of our wellness. I am honoured to say that the college is not only listening but taking action. What is reconciliation if it’s not about responding to the voice of the Indigenous communities we serve?”

The United Nations has also declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous languages.

For more information on NIC’s Aboriginal Education programs and courses, visit https://www.nic.bc.ca/aboriginal-education/.

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