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GPRC furthers commitment to Indigenous Education

Post-secondary institutions across the country are signing Indigenous Education Protocols, and Grande Prairie Regional College is the latest. Nearly two years in the making, the document is a promise to make Indigenous education a priority and to bring traditions and customs into the curriculum and culture at the college.

A draft protocol was developed by Colleges and Institutes Canada and then it was finalized between staff, faculty and the newly renamed Circle of Indigenous Students. GPRC President and CEO Don Gnatiuk says it’s simply the right thing to do.

“It’s about issues around creating access for Aboriginals. Giving them access to administrative positions, for instance, in the institution. It’s a promise to ensure that their cultures and traditions are part of day-to-day life in this institution; that we will incorporate programs and that we will give full respect.”

President of the CIS, which was previous called the Circle of Aboriginal Students, Lori Blum says they’re working with faculty to add more language studies, land-based learning, and cultural education for all students.

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“We’re going to talk more about residential schools, make sure that’s a priority that everybody knows the Treaty Act and Indigenous protocols,” she explains. “We are working on getting a smudging room, because that’s a part of our culture to clear the negative air.”

GPRC was the first college in Canada to have an on-campus Friendship Centre, and already boasts an Elder in Residence program and Native Studies courses. Blum says that’s incredibly helpful to students coming from reserves in remote areas.

“When they come here it’s too overwhelming the way the way the westernized academic is, so having that elder in residence and other people in the same boat it helps and they don’t want to drop out because they know they’re with other people.”

The protocol is part of the college’s response to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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