Uncovering UBC’s Hidden History

Ellen Neel (Kwicksutaineuk), The Native Voice, November 1948:

“To the Native people of the whole province we can give our assurance that your children will be accepted at this school by the Staff and Student Council, eager to smooth their paths with kindness and understanding. We need now only students to take advantage of the opportunity, so that some day our doctors, lawyers, social workers and departmental workers will be fully trained University graduates of our own race.”

(In 1948, Neel attended a conference at UBC held to discuss issues affecting Aboriginal people, including increased access to educational opportunities. The same year, a pole she carved was gifted to the AMS during a ceremony that officially granted UBC permission to use the Thunderbird name for its sports teams.)

UBC’s Point Grey and Okanagan campuses are located, respectively, on the traditional unceded territories of the Musqueam and Okanagan peoples. While faculty, staff and students have been working for many years to develop mutually beneficial relationships with these communities, it wasn’t until late in UBC’s first century that partnerships were formally recognized with the signing of memoranda of affiliation. A turning point in our history, these memoranda are the framework for UBC’s commitment to increase engagement and educational opportunities for Aboriginal peoples and about indigenous culture.

In addition to many long‑standing programs, UBC has formed an Aboriginal strategic plan, has one of the largest contingents of indigenous professors on permanent appointments at any research‑intensive university, and has increased Aboriginal enrolment to more than a thousand students.

UBC researchers are working with communities to find solutions to Aboriginal issues through programs like the Cedar Project, a community‑based research initiative that will address the impact of generational residential school trauma on HIV and Hepatitis C prevalence in at‑risk Indigenous youth. The university has expanded curriculum offerings focusing on Aboriginal issues and perspectives in several disciplines, including the health sciences, law and community planning.

In both academics and operations, UBC is working to address educational failures of the past. In 1915, UBC began building on what is today the Point Grey campus, but for millennia had been home to the Musqueam people. It did so with little recognition of this community or attention to their needs and aspirations. This history of the university has largely been unwritten, until now.

This Centennial year, after several years of planning and consultation with local and national groups, UBC is moving forward with plans to open the UBC Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre on the Point Grey campus. This major initiative will provide permanent local access to the records of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and will provide a home for advanced research, dialogue, and interactions with indigenous communities for years to come.

“UBC understands and values the honour of sharing the traditional territories of the Musqueam and Okanagan peoples,” says UBC interim president Dr. Martha C. Piper. “We enter the university’s second century with a renewed commitment to partnerships that ensure our common history is understood and our aspirations shared.”

Grades aren’t the only reason this Ch’nook Scholar heads to class every day

Candice Loring had many reasons to give up on education but never did. Now she plans on using what she’s learned to help her community.

Candice Loring
Candice Loring is only the second UBC Okanagan student to be named a Ch’nook Scholar.

Overcoming obstacles has been a way of life for Candice Loring, a 2014 Ch’nook Scholar studying at UBC Okanagan.

The mother of two boys and a fourth-year management student, Loring is president of UBC Okanagan’s Indigenous Student Association, a former peer support mentor for Aboriginal students, and sits on both the Okanagan Education Council, and the Deputy Vice Chancellor Aboriginal Advisory committee. She is only the second UBC Okanagan student to be awarded a Ch’nook Scholarship.

The Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education Initiative recognizes the top 17 Indigenous undergraduate and graduate Management students from post-secondary schools across BC and Alberta. The program aims to help grow business capacity and development within Aboriginal communities.

“I’m not at school just for myself,” Loring says. “I’m here for my children and for my community. I want to go back to my reserve and tell everybody how important going to school is.”

Born in a small community near Hazelton, BC, Loring’s first few years were turbulent; especially after her parents split up. Her mother moved to Nakusp, where they lived off-reserve, and where Loring was the only obvious Aboriginal student in her school. Lack of self-identity quickly stole young Loring’s drive and determination. By Grade 10 she quit school.

After moving to West Kelowna, pumping gas for a living and working in a restaurant, the dream of running a business with her mother, a pastry chef, motivated her to return to school. At 27, with two young children at home, and as nervous as can be, Loring began studying through UBC Okanagan’s Aboriginal Access Studies program.

But just months into her studies – and just as exams were getting underway – Loring’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and died two weeks later. Loring, and her dreams, were shattered. Instead of turning back and burying herself in grief, however, Loring was more determined than ever to finish her education.

“Coming back to school as a mature student worked out for me because I didn’t have the same distractions as my peers,” she says. “I had a different focus and a family to think about.”

Being a UBC student built Loring’s self-esteem. Through Access Studies, she enrolled in an Introduction to Management course and Loring, who was once encouraged by a teacher to drop out of school, learned she was smarter than she’d been led to believe and that she felt at home on campus.

Loring focussed her attention on her studies, UBC’s Indigenous Student Association, and her family. Her husband, Steve who suffers from a progressive debilitating condition, supports her by staying home and caring for their two sons – Caleb, seven, and Jonah, eight, who has Down syndrome.

And her work paid off. In 2013 Loring received the UBC Okanagan Woman of the Year award for her community involvement, which included work on a series of Truth and Reconciliation events on campus.

“UBC’s Faculty of Management is extremely proud that one of the 2014 Ch’nook Scholars is studying with us,” says Roger Sudgen, dean of the Faculty of Management. “Candice’s pathway to the Faculty of Management is illustrative of her determination, drive, and ability.”

Today, Loring has a new goal – to return to the Eagle clan and be given her “name.” She wants to give back to her community by becoming a band manager or economic development officer and help Aboriginals fullfill their ambitions.

Ch’nook Scholars also give back to the Aboriginal community through a “Cousin Event” where they speak to Grade 9 and 10 students about business studies as a pathway. Candice Loring’s Cousins Day took place in March and 16 high school students spent the day with her on campus.

“UBC Okanagan has an incredible Indigenous program, and the support I’ve received from UBC and the Faculty of Management has been amazing,” says Loring. “You are never alone on your educational journey.”

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