First Nations Head West… to Hawaii

Nov 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 13-2: The Power of Partnerships, Tribal College News
By Mary Weasel Fat

Swaying palm trees and the temperate blue-green waters of the Hawaiian Islands greeted Canadian First Nations representatives last July when a group representing the First Nations Adult Higher Education Consortium participated in an educational/cultural exchange program. Red Crow Community College, the only Canadian member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), sent seven members, including board members, staff, faculty, and students.

The 10-day trip included cultural activities and tours to various points of interest on four islands: Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, and the big island of Hawaii. A group of 12 students from five colleges on the islands of Hawaii had visited Alberta the year before. Hosting the Canadians were representatives from various colleges of the Native Hawaiian Vocational Education Programs (NHVEP).

Lorelee Water Chief, career/guidance counselor at the Old Sun Community College, Siksika Nation, organized this year’s exchange. “The group was treated to various cultural events including learning how to prepare native Hawaiian food and seeing first hand how the food is cooked in a luau, picking taro plants, visiting salt and fish ponds, traditional canoeing, volcano and lava tours, some of the Native Hawaiian language programs, and the various NHVEP colleges,” said Water Chief. “The hospitality and love shown by each of the native Hawaiian groups was overwhelming.” Networking, linkages, and strong bonds were created through the exchange, as the Hawaiians’ experience of colonialism is similar to the aboriginal experience in the Americas.

George Knife, RCCC student council president, was very moved by the experience. He said, “I learned a lot about the culture. The people there help each other; they pull together; and they don’t fight amongst each other. They are trying to get ahead; they are just like us – they have the same problems we do like student retention. They, too, are trying to get their languages and traditions back.”

The group acted as ambassadors to promote next year’s World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE) to be held August 4-10, 2002, at Stoney Park, Morley, Alberta, Canada.

The other RCCC participants were: Dorothy First Rider, Louis Soop, Margret Weasel Fat, Beatrice Big Sorrel Horse, and Alannah Crop Eared Wolf. For more information on the WIPCE conference visit their website <www.fbagec,irg/wipce2002>.

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