College of the Rockies’ Aboriginal Gathering Place was the site of a unique event on Friday, March 11. ‘Our Voices, Our Future’ was organized for Indigenous students and community members and saw over 50 participants throughout the day.
Organized by College of the Rockies Indigenous student mentors, the aim of the event was to have participants learn from the Indigenous community and to encourage attendees to take Indigenous education seriously. Throughout the day, six Indigenous guest speakers from the region gave 20 minute presentations.
After introductions by some of the student mentors and Student Association member Jerod Dobson, Dr. Christopher Horsethief offered a presentation about his work examining the relationship between culture and communication, the dynamics that pose challenges to Indigenous leaders and organizational resilience that drives language revitalization.
Dr. Horsethief was followed by Eldene Stanley, a member of the Ktunaxa Nation who has nearly 30 years of experience policing all over Canada, including in many First Nation areas, during her career with the RCMP. Mrs. Stanley presentation centred on education and traditional knowledge
Ktunaxa Nation member, Robert Williams, the majority owner of two businesses – Tipi Mountain Native Plants and Tipi Mountain Eco-Cultural Services, shared his experience with being an entrepreneur in Ktunaxa Territory.
The last presenter before lunch provided insight into Indigenizing academia. Star Hungry Wolf Cardinal is a mixed-ancestry Blackfoot, Swiss and Hungarian mother, scholar and advocate. Born and raised in Ktunaxa territory, she has extensive involvement in Blackfoot cultural and ceremonial practices.
After a lunch of Indian tacos, the College’s Aboriginal Education Coordinator and Education Advisor, Andrew Judge, took the floor to present his thoughts on the need to take Indigenous education seriously. This is a topic near to Judge’s heart as he is currently working on a PhD in this very subject-matter.
Marissa Phillips, a local Ktunaxa artist had her artwork on display throughout the event. She also provided a presentation on the importance of art in the development of youth and community.
The final presentation of the day belonged to Herman Alpine. As a long-time resident Elder at College of the Rockies, Alpine was able to incorporate his many years of guiding students into his presentation about the contributions Elders provide to education.
‘Our Voices, Our Future’ was the first event of its kind at College of the Rockies. In addition to the organization by the College’s student mentors, it was also supported by the Students’ Association and College of the Rockies’ Faculty Association.
Andrew Judge works closely with the mentors on a regular basis and was impressed with their work to pull together the event.
“The Indigenous student mentoring group came together to organize a fantastic community event,” Judge says. “Not only were the presenters able to speak to their personal stories as indigenous people, but those who attended were able to walk away with a deeper understanding of the importance of indigenizing education.”
Learn more about College of the Rockies Indigenous services and programming.