That’s why it’s exciting to share this story – one that Dempsey Bob, acclaimed Tahltan-Tlingit artist, Officer of the Order of Canada, and recent UBC honorary degree recipient, described so aptly as a “magnificent struggle.” Just a few weeks ago, 33 UBC Aboriginal Graduates from the 2013/2014 school year walked through the graduation door of the First Nations Long House at the Vancouver campus. In his keynote address, Dr. Dempsey Bob congratulated the graduates and recognized the stress, discipline, and commitment needed to get to this point in their journey. He also spoke to the potential of education, and the need to continue to be diligent as we move forward:
“Because education to us has always been negative because of the residential school, what happen there. But now we have to turn it around because that’s what going to be our power in the future — the education. That’s what’s going to make our people better. That’s what’s going to lift our people up. But don’t forget about our culture. Don’t forget about our values. Don’t forget about our people. Don’t forget about our land.”
Melanie McKenna, Secwepemc, a NITEP graduate, was the graduating student speaker. She reflected on her experiences as a new university student:
“I remember my first day at the Longhouse, searching for somewhere I might fit in. I was worried that maybe this wouldn’t be the place for me. Maybe everyone would be smarter than me, older than me, more native than me. But the moment I stepped through those doors, all those worries went away and I knew this place I would soon call my home. I was greeted with smiles and the offer of food, the two things that seem readily available here.”
This reflection is reminiscent of numerous NOII and AESN case studies that speak to the importance of building connected, safe spaces for learning and teaching, where students can feel supported and encouraged in their journey. It’s amazing to see the interconnectedness between the learning that comes out of the Network, and what McKenna has described as contributing to her success.
Congratulations to these 33 graduates, and all the graduates that have been walking across the stage, or through the door, this past school year.
And congratulations to all Network members who choose to journey through this “magnificent struggle,” and in so doing, create more opportunities for learners in BC and beyond.