Rupert Richardson, a recent NITEP graduate, is now an M.Ed. student in the Education Studies Department and works for the Institute for Aboriginal Health and College for Health Disciplines. Here he shares some of his story.
I would like to start by acknowledging that, as a visiting student at UBC, I was a guest on the traditional unceded territory of the Musqueam people, welcomed by Musqueam elder Larry Grant. I come from the Guskimukw, Nuxalk, and Chippewa nations.
My time at UBC in the Native Indian Teacher Education Program (NITEP) and the two-year Elementary BEd program came with many challenges, laughs, tears and successes. I am extremely thankful for all of my experiences at UBC, as they have helped in my development as a whole human being. I have met exceptional, now lifelong, friends and mentors, as I walk the path of education, for myself and my people.
A highlight of NITEP includes the community atmosphere that was created by my NITEP family. The challenges that I experienced in UBC and NITEP were met with laughter, encouragement, food, and friendship. Each of these are especially synonymous with the NITEP program, starting with the leadership and making its way down the line to the student body and the Indigenous community in UBC and Vancouver. Now I’ll acknowledge Dr. Lee Brown as one of my mentors at UBC. He taught me that the essence of true leadership is service to the people. I also learned that it’s through our struggles that we develop our gifts, so for each challenge I am extremely grateful.
One of the my biggest challenges with UBC is that it is ‘a place of mind.’ My hopes are one day UBC becomes a place of mind, body, heart, and spirit.
Each year for graduation, the First Nations house of Learning holds a graduation ceremony that is open for all First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students. For last year’s Indigenous graduation, I was selected as the 2011 valedictorian by my peers and it was an honour and privilege to be able to speak on behalf of such courageous people. I don’t know which English word would capture the sincere gratitude and honour that I felt walking through the ceremonial graduation doors of The Longhouse that day. It was only two generations ago that it was illegal for a ‘First Nations’ person to attend post-secondary. I am the first person in my family to get a university degree. Changes are happening for my family and within UBC. I’m happy to report that as of September 2012 there will be a mandatory course in Indigenous education for all students in the Faculty of Education. If it wasn’t for my time at UBC, especially the learning opportunities I had through NITEP, I wouldn’t have had the awakening that has inspired me to create change for all people in Canada, especially the Bakwums (what we refer to ourselves in Kwakwala).
I’m happy to report this as a UBC graduate student in the Faculty of Education’s Department of Educational Studies (EDST). I’m currently working with the College of Health Disciplines and the Institute of Aboriginal Health to create curriculum, that validates and acknowledges Indigenous traditional knowledge, for UBC undergraduate students going into health and human service careers. I am not certain where my path will lead me but I am keeping an open mind, heart, spirit and body. Here is to lifelong learning.