Northern Lights College (NLC) launched its first Elders in Residence program this fall with the intention of integrating Indigenous knowledge in classrooms and service areas throughout the College.
Prior to the launch of this program, Elders were invited to join classes and create learning spaces in an informal way, which Helen Knott, Director of Indigenous Education, thought needed more structure. To Helen, planning for Elders to be here shows NLC’s desire and commitment to create spaces for traditional knowledge and stories to be shared.
The program creates a pathway for Elders to share their knowledge with students, staff, and faculty through conversations, storytelling, and classroom visits.
The program was inspired by Helen's time at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) in Merritt. She was away from home and missing her family, and the NVIT Elders in Residence program allowed her to connect with elders from different Indigenous communities and recreate the feeling of home; an experience she hopes to generate for NLC students.
Officially launched in October, the Elders in Residence program is set to run until May 2023 — the end of the academic year. Each month, a new Elder joins us for the first full week of the month for a series of events between the Fort St. John and Dawson Creek Campuses. Each visit starts off with a welcome feast to celebrate the Elder’s arrival and help them feel welcomed in the learning space.
“We [want] to support our Elders in the best way possible to move into these spaces and just make sure they’re [feeling] really welcome,” said Helen.
Along with a welcome feast, events with the Elders include classroom visits, tours, tea and bannock, conversation circles, and so much more through a mix of in-person and virtual platforms.
Some elders were identified by their communities and others were invited to participate due to already being active in knowledge sharing in the vast region served by NLC. Participating Elders include Gerry Attachie, David Rattray, Clarence Apsassin, Malcom Supernault, Bernadette Cardinal, and Vera Nicholson. Thus far, NLC has been honoured to host Gerry and David, and is looking forward to having Clarence on campus in January.
“Seeing how willing and responsive instructors have been to having Elders in the classroom identifies that need or hunger for the knowledge to be shared. I have these moments of being so happy seeing our knowledge keepers in these spaces,” says Helen of her favourite part of the Elders in Residence program.
This is a positive step toward honouring Indigenous ways of being within NLC, as well as providing additional support and connection for Indigenous learners.