Friday was the grand opening ceremony for the newly constructed Aboriginal Gathering Place at the College of the Rockies.
Representatives from the College, the Ktunaxa Nation, and our local MLA talked about the partnership and camaraderie that brought the various organizations together to complete the new building. The presentation began with the raising of the Ktunaxa flag, that was followed by speeches and a ribbon cutting. The grand opening took place on Friday, Oct. 31 in front of the Aboriginal Gathering Place itself, which is located at the College’s main campus in Cranbrook, which is traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation.
Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair, said the new building reaffirms the commitment of both the Ktunaxa Nation and the College of the Rockies to support and enhance Aboriginal education in Ktunaxa territory.
“This close collaboration has resulted in this beautiful new space where students from all over the world can learn and share in a supportive and inclusive environment,” Teneese said. She also noted the positive relationship that has been developed.
The Gathering Place is meant to build bridges of understanding between different voices and cultures and help create a welcoming, safe and supportive learning environment for Aboriginal students attending College of the Rockies.
College of the Rockies’ President and CEO David Walls noted that the Gathering Place is a place of welcome for everyone within the College community and beyond it.
“We couldn’t be happier to see the doors of this beautiful building officially open,” Walls said.
Representatives from the Ktunaxa Nation, the Shuswap Band, the Metis Nation and students who actually worked to build the Gathering Place were among the invited guests for the event which commenced with the raising of a Ktunaxa flag outside of the College.
Students in the College of the Rockies’ construction trades programs participated in the building of the Gathering Place, which received funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Columbia Basin Trust.
Ktunaxa Elder Herman Alpine provided a blessing for the building in a sunrise ceremony prior to the official grand opening. The Aboriginal Gathering Place holds a particularly special significance for Alpine as he and his family once lived where the Gathering Place now sits.
Speakers included College of the Rockies Board of Governors’ Chair Dave Handy, Minister Bill Bennett, Kathryn Teneese and Gwen Phillips from the Ktunaxa Nation as well as Marilyn Taylor from the Metis Nation.
Additional funds were provided by Teck Resources and the Ktunaxa Nation.
“By offering a gathering place, College of the Rockies is helping Aboriginal students feel welcome and supported in an environment for success in post-secondary education,” East Kootenay MLA Bill Bennett said. “The college plays an important role in the community that is further enhanced by this welcoming gathering place.”
The Aboriginal Gathering Place will be open for public viewing on Nov. 5 from 1–4 p.m.