Williams Lake Indian Band Councillor Heather McKenzie (left) and retired surgeon Dr. Pat Cullum (right) invited John Chenoweth

Williams Lake Indian Band Councillor Heather McKenzie (left) and retired surgeon Dr. Pat Cullum (right) invited John Chenoweth

Leaders explore idea of First Nations College

The possibility of developing a First Nation College in the Cariboo-Chilcotin was the focus of a one-day meeting held recently.

The possibility of developing a First Nation College in the Cariboo-Chilcotin was the focus of a one-day meeting held recently at Sugar Cane.

Representatives from 13 Aboriginal communities in the region attended the session.

Retired surgeon Dr. Pat Cullum co-ordinated the meeting with Williams Lake Indian Band councillor Heather McKenzie.

“It all started when Pat came into my office and told me he had a really good idea,” McKenzie said after the meeting finished. “He told me he had a real passion for having an Indigenous post-secondary institute here and suggested we invite John Chenoweth the Dean of the Nicola Valley Insitute of Techology to facilitate a meeting.”

Happy with the turnout and the results, McKenzie said it was great to have so many communities represented.

Cullum said he was inspired to organize the meeting because he was fed up with racism toward Indigenous people in Williams Lake.

“John is taking all our ideas and summing them up with a reply that he will give to us in a few weeks,” Cullum said.

McKenzie said they discussed what a multi-campus model could look like for the region extending all the way to Bella Coola.

“We also want to see the completion of programs in the Williams Lake area,” she said, noting there was also a discussion about not wanting to duplicate programs that are already being offered in the region.

Chenoweth has been with NVIT since 2007, and said he came to share their experience of starting a college with the five Nicola Indian Bands.

“I shared my vision about what I think education should be for Indigenous people based on my own research,” Chenoweth said. “All the communities that were here talked about what their principles are for training for people in their communities and what they hold close to their hearts.”

He said he will put together a list of principles based on the participants’ input that they can use for going on their own and starting a new higher learning institute or working with existing schools.

“One of the main things that came up today was the fact when kids come from far away into Williams Lake, housing is a real issue,” Chenoweth added.