Columbia Valley Pioneer staff

A new Indigenous Advisory Committee is being established by College of the Rockies in partnership with local First Nations and Metis communities.

“This collaboration with our Indigenous partners is part of the college’s ongoing commitment to genuine reconciliation with Indigenous communities in our region,” said Dana Wesley, executive director of Indigenous Strategy and Reconciliation. 

Wesley noted they currently engage closely with Indigenous partners in various ways, but this committee will provide a strategic platform for Indigenous Peoples to advocate for their educational needs. 

The committee will incorporate a “distinctions based” approach, acknowledging the specific rights, interests, priorities, and concerns of each, while respecting and acknowledging the distinct peoples with unique cultures, histories, rights, laws, and governments.  

“It is so important for all students of First Nations ancestry to have a sense of belonging in their educational setting,” said Shuswap Band Chief Barbara Cote. “Having the positive supports in the college helps them to discover more about themselves and to achieve their goals in education for their future independence.” 

An Indigenous advisory feedback circle took place in March at yaqakit ?itqawxaxamki (the Place Where People Gather) at the Cranbrook campus. 

Led by college president Paul Vogt and Wesley, the group held meaningful conversations on how to apply an innovative, people-centred, evidence-informed practice to the committee and listened to the recommendations made by Indigenous partners on how to move forward. 

The discussion was captured through a real-time graphic recording by Lisa Gates from Insightful Ink. 

Much like Chief Cote from Shuswap Band, the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the Rocky Mountain Métis Association are looking forward to collaborating with the other partners. 

On behalf of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, director of education and employment Eric Einarson said he is looking forward to engaging with the college and the partners. 

“I am pleased to be continuing discussions and dialogue as we travel together on the path of reconciliation.” 

Jeff Crozier, president of Rocky Mountain Metis Association, also expressed his pleasure of working with Ktunaxa and other First Nations to enhance relations and strengthen educational needs.

A Terms of Reference for the committee will be crafted over the spring and summer months before its reveal in the fall of 2024.