A peek at the Wescoast Collegium Aboriginal Dedication
Patti Victor really knows how to throw a party. On the evening of November 1st, the Westcoast Collegium welcomed honoured guests, including Sto:lo elders, Aboriginal Christian leaders, and representatives of Aboriginal churches, students and faculty, to officially dedicate the space as the campus’ gathering place for native dialogue. Attendees arrived to the sound of drums beating and a hum of excitement in the room.
Victor, University Siya:m, organized and hosted the event. On the agenda were opening words from TWU Provost Bob Wood, who spoke on behalf of the university’s office of the President, followed by welcome and prayer by Kwantlen and Sto:lo leaders.
The normally soft-spoken Victor had some passionate words to say about her Siya:m role: “It is my joy to meet with aboriginal students each week to talk to them about every thing from exams, to homesickness, and to provide encouragement and talk about the call of God upon their lives,” she says. “The Siya:m position is a vision that God has given me and God has a big plan. It’s bigger than me or anyone’s visions because our God is a big God and an awesome God! We need Aboriginal people who are educated and filled with the Holy Spirit to enable them to do what God wants them to do.”
After great cheers from the crowd in response to these inspiring words, Victor was presented with a gift of a woven Salish shawl depicting three rows of red diamonds to represent the Holy Trinity, eternity, and the blood of Jesus.
Reverend Bruce Brown, from the Haida Gwaii shared his moving story. After surviving the residential school system in Alert Bay and drinking since the age of 11, he came to know Jesus as the result of a spiritual experience at age 22. His lifestyle changed from then on, working as a pilot and village chief, attending Bible college, and pastoring to aboriginal communities for 40 years.
Brown expresses his gratitude to TWU. “Events like tonight contribute toward reconciliation, healing, and partnering. Awareness and love between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities is beginning and social development is taking place.”
The unveiling of Aboriginal artwork was a fitting end to the evening. Three Sto:lo paintings, a Salish weaving, and a wood carving were specially commissioned and custom designed by local aboriginal artists.
The night of celebration officially closed with prayer, but guests lingered and talked, with children playing on the rug in front of the fire place. Patti Victor’s beaming face above her new shawl tells the story of the great success of the evening.
On just the first evening of its official dedication, the Westcoast Collegium has already fulfilled its vision. Conversations have started on common ground, food and resources were shared, beginning to bridge the gap between communities in the new gathering place.