KPU celebrates National Aboriginal Day

Event aims to bring awareness to Aboriginal issues

Butterflys in Spirit, Lekeyten, others, close out the days events (Tristan Johnston)

The courtyard at Surrey campus was crowded for much of Tuesday afternoon for the second-annual Kwantlen Polytechnic University celebration of National Aboriginal Day.

The June 21 event saw presentations by Lekeyten, KPU’s Elder in Residence, basket weaving by Patricia Stewart, hoop dancing by Petie Chalifoux and a dance presentation by Butterflies in Spirit, with a focus on the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

Lekeyten believes that there are lessons to be learned from the event. “I think, just realizing that the coexistence of the healing process that the First Nations are going through every day,” he says.

“The truth and reconciliation things are out there right now. I think that one document for truth and reconciliation is 157 pages long. So, in order for you to go through that whole thing, it will probably take five years to understand what was intended.”

“When we look across Canada as the peoples of Canada in the early history, it affects everybody’s history,” says Lekeyten. “History books can be cruel, but at the same time it’s still a learning tool.”

Lekeyten, KPU’s Elder in Residence, tells the story of the KPU mace (Tristan Johnston)

Lekeyten also said that he was happy to see many students and faculty coming out to the event, noting that many of them were international students.

While there has been criticism of KPU’s relationship with First Nations groups in the past, particularly with last year’s rescinded memorandum of understanding with Transmountain, Lekeyten views the university more positively.

“Every time they mention the Kwantlen First Nation name in events, they always explain why they carry Kwantlen’s name, and that’s all we asked,” says Lekeyten. “If you explain that in all your grad ceremonies and teachings, that’s all we need. That’s all we need to do.”

The KPU mace was on display for Tuesday’s event (Tristan Johnston)

“This is the second year we’ve helped celebrated National Aboriginal Day at KPU,” says Jane Fee, Vice Provost Students. “It’s part of who we are, it’s part of our name, and we thought it was time that we started putting [something on.] We’ve attended other events, but we thought it was time that we started celebrating on our campuses.”

“We are, as far as I’m aware, the only Canadian university that’s named after a First Nations group. We have the same responsibility that any other post-secondary institution does to recognize the territory that we live and work in. We also have an additional responsibility to ensure we’re paying heed to our name, and make sure our connection to First Nations groups is understood and respected.”

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