Students, instructors and mentors were celebrated last week at an Honouring the Journey event at Sugarcane, representing a partnership between the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council (NSTC) and Thompson Rivers University, and hosted by the Williams Lake Indian Band.
A total of 75 students completed the Shuswap language, Microsoft computer certificate and university prep programs, offered in conjunction with TRU and Simon Fraser University.
These students were honoured at the event, as well as 14 residents who participated in the Shuswap learning program, which was a partnership between NSTC and the City of Williams Lake.
Also acknowledged at the ceremony were the Cariboo Chilcotin Aboriginal Training Employment Centre Society (CDATEC) early childhood education students, as well as mentors, instructors and education workers.
Present at the event were leaders and representatives from the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council, Spi7uy Language and Culture Society, Thompson Rivers University, Williams Lake Indian Band and School District 27. Virginia Gilbert and the Alkali Lake drummers and singers shared a welcoming song with the audience, and Lennard Supernault from Sugarcane performed a thank you song.
MCs for the day were Phyllis Webstad and Irene Gilbert, with Jean William providing a prayer. Lunch was catered by True Food Services.
Williams Lake Indian Band Councillor and education manager Heather Mackenzie stated how much the band appreciates their partnerships with organizations like TRU.
“I define myself as a champion of education and I take it very seriously,” Mackenzie said. “I personally wish every student every success in their educational pursuits.”
A special thank you was given to Julie Browser from Continuing Studies at TRU for her tireless and determined support of students from Shuswap communities.
“I want to say a special thank you to Ray Sanders from TRU for developing courses that reflect and respect our First Nations culture,” said NSTC executive director Yvonne Smith. “It’s important that we continue to work together to support cultural diversity and mutual respect.”
TRU director Ray Sanders said that, with all the partnerships on campus at TRU Williams Lake, the most important is entering the current agreement with NSTC.
“We’re in the people-changing business,” he explained. “Helping people have better lives.
“Education is power and we’ll continue to grow in our efforts to support this agreement. This is only the beginning.”
Northern Shuswap Tribal Council Chair Chief Mike Archie said: “Growing up in our culture we have a lot of trials and tribulations. It’s important to develop and study our language.
Our language identifies us as a people. Our numbers of graduating studies is growing. It is good to take time to acknowledge their accomplishments.”