New gathering place supports Indigenous culture on campus

Speakers from the official opening ceremony for NIC's new Indigenous Gathering Place at the Campbell River campus.
Back row, left to right: NIC student Kirsten Dobler, North Island MLA Michele Babchuck
Front row, left to right: NIC President Lisa Domae, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training Anne Kang, Wei Wai Kum Chief Chris Roberts and NIC Elder in Residence June Johnson

Indigenous students, faculty and staff have a new culturally relevant space for connection and celebration with the official opening of the Indigenous Gathering Place at North Island College's Campbell River campus.

"This new Indigenous Gathering Place is a beautiful, welcoming and safe space for people to gather, learn and support each other," said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. "We know from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that providing cultural spaces on campus is important to Indigenous students, faculty and staff."

The building is called Q̓ə pix ʔidaʔas and its design represents a traditional drum with a Liqwiltokw Big House at its centre. It is home to the Elders in Residence program, student support services, and offers a large community room for cultural celebrations, events and art displays. The Gathering Place will also provide a space to deliver Liq'wala language courses and other Indigenous education programming.

"It is my hope that the Indigenous Gathering Place will encourage Indigenous student success by creating a greater sense of belonging on campus, fostering community and supporting Indigenous-led learning in environments where students can thrive," said Lisa Domae, president, North Island College.

The college consulted with the Wei Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum Nations and students throughout the project's development to inform its design and to honour the location of the institution within the territory of the Liqwiltokw People.

"The Gathering Place will serve as a safe and welcoming place for our Indigenous students," said June Johnson, North Island College Elder in Residence and member of the Wei Wai Kai First Nation. "It will be used as a dedicated space for cultural, language, social and academic teachings. I'm looking forward to being in this beautiful and spiritual space with students."

The new Indigenous Gathering Place provides an indoor space for students and college community members to gather year-round. The existing outdoor gathering structure will also be maintained.

Notably, North Island College will soon begin building its first student housing project, which will provide 217 beds at the Comox Valley campus with priority entry for Indigenous students. Construction is expected to begin in fall 2022.


Karyssa Mills, bachelor of science in nursing student, North Island College -

"The new space in Campbell River has really benefited my learning. I've enjoyed watching this space grow, and now, see it open to students. I've watched how North Island College's Indigenous student supports have grown in the time that I've been here, and this new, culturally relevant, safe space is a wonderful addition to the supports and services for Indigenous students like me."

Michelle Babchuk, MLA, North Island -

"The Indigenous Gathering Place is more than a space or building. It's a home for Indigenous culture where Indigenous students can see themselves reflected and feel welcome at North Island College. I am thankful to everyone who supported this beautiful project and made a way for us all to recognize and support the achievements of Indigenous students."

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation -

"I am thrilled about the opening of North Island College's new Indigenous Gathering Place. This building enhances the academic space and helps provide mental-health and cultural supports where students live and learn. It symbolizes progress and expresses a shared dedication to Indigenous communities, namely the Liqwiltokw People, as we continue to work toward reconciliation."

Quick facts:

  • The $2.5-million cost to build the 222-square-metre (2,390 square feet) Indigenous Gathering Place was shared between the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training ($800,000) and North Island College ($1.7 million).
  • 1,012 students at North Island College identified as Indigenous in 2019-
  • More than 24,580 students at C. public post-secondary institutions identified as Indigenous in 2019-20.
  • Q̓ə pix ʔidaʔas is pronounced "kah-pee-ih-dah-us" and translates as "gathering place" in Liq'wala.
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