The indigenous student community at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) may be highly underestimated and may not be fully understood. The goal of this project is to illuminate the potential of this part of the student body. The audience of this project will learn a variety information about students, support staff and elders, the role of Cplul’kw’ten and the university’s strategy for indigenization.
However, there are three main focuses; what the university’s role is in integrating indigenous content and diversity, the challenges indigenous peoples and students have faced in the pursuit of education and the success stories and goals of students.
Students at TRU may have noticed a little slogan on their course outlines and on the university’s website:
“Thompson Rivers University’s Kamloops campus is located on the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc territory within the unceded traditional lands of Secwepemcúl’ecw (Secwepemc Nation)”
The Secwepemc Nation, or Shuswap people, are the dominant indigenous group residing in the Kamloops and surrounding area. Both the campuses in Kamloops and William’s Lake reside on traditional indigenous lands.
So how do these institutions relate to the indigenous culture? First, TRU does an impeccable job at integrating indigenous based courses into the curriculum for both open learning and on-campus students. For example, there is Introduction to First Nations language, Introduction to First Nations Studies and Aboriginal Culture and Learning. There are also anthropology courses such as Canadian Native Peoples, First Nations Natural Resource Management, First Nations Heritage and Law.
These are only a few examples of the courses that are offered to the entire university population. These courses open the door for non-indigenous students to learn about a major group within the Canadian population. This is an important step in further and deeper understanding.
Second, the TRU website offers a very informative and comprehensive indigenous page, much like the pages for international and open learning students. This website page offers information for future and current students including where to find the support, counselling, mentors, the resource centre and explains the university’s indigenization project and goals. These will be discussed in further detail below. The website page also includes links to events specifically for indigenous students, and also campus wide. The website creates an inviting and knowledgeable introduction to the indigenous students and staff. Most importantly a welcoming message from the executive director from the Office of Aboriginal Education- Paul Michel.
CPLUL’KW’TEN- SUPPORT STAFF & ELDERS
Third, the university has a designated centre for indigenous students, Cplul’kw’ten. It is very customary for high schools in both BC and the Yukon to have designated offices or areas for indigenous students. These resource areas offer additional assistant for students in their school life, and also their personal lives. Indigenous students, much like any other student, are usually away from their families, communities and traditional ways of life. Indigenous students are very familiar to the close knit communities they grew up in, and attending post-secondary schools far from that comfort can prove to be a difficult transition. The resource centre page offers a well-developed example of this,
Cplul’kw’ten is a friendly and inviting Indigenous centre that provides information on all aspects of university life and doubles as space to socialize, study or just take a break from your day. It is truly a home away from home. (TRU Cplul’kw’ten)
This service includes various features to make students feel comfortable and supported. For example, students can receive assistance with everything from academic funding applications to proof reading or helping with essays and research. The centre offers mentors and elders that comes in to keep students connected to that sense of community, or just to help with guidance, advice or a friendly chat.
There is also computers and printers, a kitchen, workshops for finance management and study techniques…The list goes on. They even have free soup lunches every Wednesday, to help students connect with one another and feel like they are right back in their mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen.
There is also seven staff members located in Cplul’kw’ten including counsellors, advisors, mentors and elders. The website lists all the contact information for the support staff for easy access. The support staff work as a team, along with other students, to help students work through the challenges they face, but also to assist in discovering goals and to celebrate successes.
Indigenous people have faced grave difficulties when it comes to the pursuit of education. The historical background of systemic discrimination against indigenous people in Canada, through the implementation of residential school and other national institutions and laws, has created an aftermath that has trickled down through generations.
Indigenous students need all the support they can receive because they may not be receiving the help they need from families who simply do not understand the process of entering or attending university. Indigenous students, like any other student, need help staying connected to that sense of community and family so they have peace of mind to succeed and focus on their education.
The term indigenization means exactly what it sounds like, to make a system, institution, media, or community indigenous again. Thompson Rivers University is an exceptional example of indigenization. The Indigenous website features a link to the various ways that the university is taking steps to achieve this goal.
Reading though the information makes one feel an overwhelming sense of pride and ease to know they are attending a school that places indigenization high on the priority list.
A few of the features include an explanation of the Coyote Project, a unified goal of the university and faculty to incorporate, recognize and respect indigenization. These goals are explained in great detail and include links such as Towards Indigenizing Higher Ed, fun projects from the Aboriginal Health and Nursing program like Bearing Witness and Digitized Secwepemc Resources for additional reading, and TRU Law response to TRC (Truth and Reconciliation) where law students of TRU listened to elders who are survivors of the residential school era.
Ultimately, as seen by this informational text, Thompson Rivers University offers well-developed and easy to access information about the indigenous community. It is a lot to sift and navigate through, but once one reads through some of the information they can begin to better understand this part of the school population. Students can begin to appreciate and recognize and respect the beautifully diverse community that makes up TRU’s student body.
Julia Freeman-Woolpert (Photographer). (2007). We are the world [picture], Retrieved September 29, 2018, from: https://www.freeimages.com/photo/we-are-the-world-1311152
Morvan Rodrigues (Photographer). (2003). Open book stock [picture], Retrieved September 29, 2018, from: https://www.freeimages.com/photo/open-book-1546443
Thompson Rivers University. (n.d.). Indigenous TRU. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from https://www.tru.ca/indigenous.html
Tory Byrne (Photographer). (2006). Friendship [picture], Retrieved September 29, 2018, from: https://www.freeimages.com/photo/friendship-2-1240066