Indigenous students at Vancouver Island University (VIU) will soon have access to more space as Shq'apthut (A Gathering Place) is expanded at the Nanaimo campus.
The building is a home away from home for Indigenous students where cultural, academic, recreational and social activities are promoted and celebrated.
“Providing cultural spaces on campus is important to Indigenous students and has value to the entire university community. VIU is seeing an increase in Indigenous student enrolment, and we are excited to invest in the facilities that will help support their educational experience,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “By expanding Shq'apthut, we can help encourage and welcome Indigenous students to pursue post-secondary education.”
The expanded Shq'apthut building will add more ceremonial space, Elder-in-residence offices and additional washroom facilities, all within a fully accessible building. The new space will be heated and cooled by VIU’s District Geo-Exchange Energy System, which harnesses the geo-energy stored in sunken mine shafts under the campus. The surrounding site will undergo extensive landscaping that will exemplify and celebrate Indigenous culture.
“VIU is proud of its long-standing commitment to reconciliation and our collaborations with the Nations. The expansion of Shq’apthut is a tangible demonstration of our strategic commitment to build stronger partnerships with Indigenous communities in the regions we serve,” said Deborah Saucier, president, VIU. “Working with the provincial government on this project will enhance the on-campus learning experience for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at VIU and allow the Elders the space they need to do their work.”
With $3.7 million in new funding between VIU and the Province to expand Shq'apthut, construction is expected to begin in spring 2023, with completion slated for spring 2024.
“Expanding Shq’apthut will allow us to host more cultural events because of increased capacity, and it will include dedicated office space for our Elders in residence to engage one-on-one with students in a culturally appropriate environment,” Sylvia Scow, interim director, Office of Indigenous Education and Engagement, VIU. “Having this space to build relationships and share traditional knowledge is key in our work to implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
James Beardy, bachelor of natural resource management student, VIU –
“For me, Shq’apthut has been a place where I feel like I belong, a place with familiar faces. It’s been key to my academic success because I cannot achieve my full potential unless I’m comfortable where I am, and that space has helped me get comfortable. Attending events at Shq’apthut helped me learn about Coast Salish culture and the protocols here, which are vastly different from where I’m from – Fox Lake Cree Nation in northern Manitoba.”
Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“Starting post-secondary education is such an important milestone in someone’s life. It represents a moment of change, and it requires supports. Shq'apthut is an important place on campus, and this further investment in ensuring it meets the needs of Indigenous students now and in the future is an important step in reconciliation.”
Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo –
“We all benefit from Vancouver Island University's leadership, learning about each other’s cultures and traditions. The second phase of Shq'apthut honours local First Nations, supports students on campus, and celebrates culture in a space designed to inspire.”
- The Province has provided $3.3 million toward the $3.7 million project. VIU has provided $417,300.
- VIU’s Nanaimo campus is located on the territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
- There were 1,384 Indigenous students studying at VIU during the 2020-21 academic year.
- Indigenous students make up 12% of the total student population of 11,963 people.
- More than 24,580 students at public post-secondary institutions identified themselves as Indigenous in 2019-20.
Learn more about Vancouver Island University: https://www.viu.ca/