Indigenous students attending the College of New Caledonia (CNC) now have a culturally safe and welcoming environment to call home with the opening of the first Indigenous-specific student housing at the college.
Named by Lheidli T’enneh First Nation Elder Josie Paul, the 12-bed building is called Nahoonai-a, which means “to find” or “to rediscover.”
“The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation is very pleased to help open the new Indigenous student housing complex at the College of New Caledonia. We thank the provincial government for its investment to create safe housing for Indigenous students,” said Lheidli T’enneh First Nation Chief Dolleen Logan. “Our Nation is also honoured to have been part of the design and naming process for the new complex. CNC recognizes the value in working with its First Nations partners and we salute CNC for taking this approach.”
The fully furnished building is built next to existing student housing on the Prince George campus. In addition to the 12 rooms, two of which are accessible, there is a shared kitchen, living area, washrooms and laundry facilities.
“We know that students from remote communities have unique challenges to adapting to post-secondary life, and this home will create a foundation for them to explore their learning on many levels,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “We are committed to increasing affordable student housing options through our 10-year housing plan, and this facility is a shining example of the kind of facilities we are proud to invest in on behalf of students in British Columbia.”
CNC worked with the Lheidli T’enneh, and other Indigenous partners, to ensure the design of the housing created is a safe and welcoming space for students. The building includes a designated cultural area incorporating natural light and wood elements for students to build community and gather. There is a two-bedroom suite for an Elder, who will be a student mentor and adviser.
“Elder Josie Paul of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation assisted by her daughter Edith Frederick proposed the name, Nahoonai-a. The meaning ‘to find’ or ‘to rediscover’ describes the college experience well,” said Dennis Johnson, CNC president and CEO. “I am confident Nahoonai-a will provide a welcoming and supportive home for students as they achieve their goals. I am also grateful for all those who have helped Nahoonai-a to become a reality.”
Construction of the building was completed in October 2020. Due to delays from the COVID-19 pandemic, the first students moved in for the start of the September 2021 school year.
Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“Moving into post-secondary education is both an exciting and a challenging time for students and this project is an example of culturally safe housing that will help students feel welcomed. I hope the students who live here will find it to be a home and a place where they are supported to achieve their goals and full potential.”
Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport –
“When we announced this project three years ago, the entire community was extremely excited about bringing new homes to the campus. The vision and partnership were about creating winning conditions for Indigenous students to succeed, especially those who are far away from their Indigenous communities for the first time. I am thrilled to know that this vision has reached reality. This is truly reconciliation in action.”
Damon Robinson, membership outreach co-ordinator, CNC Students’ Union –
“Over the last few years, I have been excited to watch the development of the Indigenous housing building on campus - now known as Nahoonai-a. As a Gitxsan, it is heartwarming to see the acceptance and accommodation for Indigenous students attending CNC. Nahoonai-a creates an opportunity for reconciliation and a sense of home for students who may be coming from out of town, the same way I did in 2016. I believe that the creation of this home will be a significant benefit to our Indigenous students attending CNC.”
- The Province provided $5.3 million to develop the Indigenous students housing.
- CNC’s Prince George campus is situated on the territory of the Lheidli T’enneh.
- CNC’s catchment region serves 22 First Nation communities, three Métis Nation British Columbia-chartered communities and Indigenous students represent approximately 25% of the student population.
- There are CNC campuses in Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Mackenzie, Prince George, Quesnel and Vanderhoof.
- The phonetic pronunciation of Nahoonai-a is “nahoon-eye-ah.”
For more about the College of New Caledonia, visit: https://cnc.bc.ca/
A recording of this announcement can be viewed at https://youtu.be/A8GSalfKYpA
To see visuals of the building, visit: http://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021AEST0057-001808#assets
A backgrounder follows.