VICTORIA, BC – With traditional drumming, singing, dancing, and food, Camosun unveiled the new name and purpose for its Aboriginal Education department: Eyēʔ Sqȃ’lewen – Centre for Indigenous Education and Community Connections.
“Eyēʔ Sqȃ’lewen – pronounced Eye. Sh-KWAW-leh-win – is a term offered to the college by Lkwungen Elder Elmer George,” explained Indigenous Education Co-Leader Janice Simcoe. “It references ‘good heart, good mind, good feelings’ – the experiences we want students to have during their journey here.”
Along with the new name, Simcoe explained how the new model is based on the Camas flower, which has always been important to local Indigenous people as a staple food and trading item, and which also is a symbol of beauty and survival. The six petals represent the six purposes of the new Centre: services to students, community connections, courses and programs, special projects, Indigenization and research. Students are at the centre of the petals, the roots represent Indigenous knowledge and caring and the stems provide the relationships that hold it all together.
The naming ceremony took place September 26 in Na’tsa’maht, Camosun’s Aboriginal Gathering Place at the Lansdowne campus. More than 200 people witnessed the celebrations which included prayers, songs, dancing and words of welcome, and concluded with a traditional gifting ceremony and a meal that included barbeque salmon and bannock.
Camosun has been providing education for First Nations/Aboriginal students and communities since the 1970s but significant growth began in 1991 when the college formed a First Nations Advisory Council and hired a full-time First Nations Coordinator. Since then, the Aboriginal student population has grown from 125 to more than 1,000 Aboriginal students from 50 different Nations.
Camosun is now recognized as a provincial leader in Indigenous education, service, programming and community engagement. Camosun offers 10 different Indigenous-specific programs from Indigenous Studies to Indigenous Business Leadership, in addition to strong partnerships with the Indigenous areas of the University of Victoria, Royal Roads University and other organizations on Vancouver Island. The Camosun College Student Society also supports an Aboriginal student events and advocacy group called the First Nations Student Association.
Camosun College serves the communities of southern Vancouver Island and the south Gulf Islands located in the traditional territories of the Lkwungen (Esquimalt and Songhees), Malahat, Pacheedaht, Scia’new, T’Sou-ke and W̱SÁNEĆ (Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Swawout, Tseycum) peoples. We acknowledge their welcome and graciousness to the students who seek knowledge here. The college’s name “Camosun” (pronounced Cam-O-sun) is originally a Lkwungen name for an area of Victoria “where different waters meet and are transformed.”