Community Voices Bring Meaning to The Year of Indigenous Education

The late Oscar Kawagley, an Indigenous scholar, was known to say, ‘The sole purpose of education is to make a good human being’. Indeed, no theme was more important on October 12, 2012, at the UBC Faculty of Education’s inaugural event to celebrate The Year of Indigenous Education. The initiative, to create conversations, share insights and develop actions to accelerate the success of Indigenous education, was met with resounding support by an audience of 175 that included educators, students, Elders, community members, and alumni.

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The event featured the first annual Musqueam Excellence in Education Lecture, with a panel of four community educators and leaders, Nolan Charles , Aaron Wilson, and Marny Point, of Musqueam First Nation, and Kory Wilson, of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation. They shared stories of their educational challenges, successes, strategies, and dreams that have shaped their educational pathways, careers, and community leadership. Key topics throughout the evening included ways to encourage the fusion of our ‘book world’ with a supportive ‘community world’ and reflections that Indigenous language, family and community support, and relevant learning is intimately linked to educational success and excellence. Other dialogue focused on a core belief that every learner has the opportunity for success, and that it is important for family members and educators to build on the ‘gifts’ of each learner.

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Preceding the panel discussion were opening remarks by distinguished guests: Musqueam Elder Larry Grant, Musqueam Band Council member Wade Grant, Linc Kesler, Director of UBC’s First Nations House of Learning and Dean of Education, Blye Frank. The guests were treated to welcoming and closing drum and dance songs by the Tsatsu Stalqayu, Coastal Wolf Pack, led by Francis James. Audience feedback strongly echoed the comment by Jo-ann Archibald, Stó:lō Nation and Associate Dean of Indigenous Education that ‘story, song and dance engage our heart, mind, body, and spirit for educational excellence. Elder Larry Grant reinforced the value of educators working together with family and community and said, “we must all paddle in the same direction” in order to move forward for Indigenous educational excellence.

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Learn more about the Year of Indigenous Education here.