Camosun's Exchange with New Zealand Maoris Promotes International Indigenous Education
Camosun Indigenous Education Chair Todd Ormiston was thrilled to take his recent Maori guests from New Zealand to their first ice hockey game in Canada. "They were amazed at how intense it was," he says. "They said to me afterwards, 'we got it all—goals, overtime and a shootout!' They'd never been outside of New Zealand before, let alone to a hockey game, so it was exciting and meaningful for all of them.
The themes of shared values, meaningful connections, positive relationships and applied learning were woven throughout the two-week trip to Victoria in September that Ormiston facilitated for five Maori visitors—two students and three administrators—from ARA Institute in Canterbury, New Zealand. The exchange was made possible because both institutions have prioritized promoting indigenous education over the years.
"We've pushed for and had ongoing support for Indigenous education in all aspects of the College, including the President office's, staff and students," says Ormiston. "That has resulted in a change of consciousness and a support system which ultimately promotes different ways of knowing and being and helping Indigenous students succeed. I often share how awareness leads to understanding which ultimately results in building consensus, and transformation —this is being realized at Camosun College."
The idea of an international partnership first took hold in 2005 when Ormiston travelled to New Zealand with the idea of setting up a student exchange. "The reality is that we have commonalities and shared existences as well as differences with the Maori people and we can learn from each other," he says. "International education here at Camosun knew about our connections and approached me about a year ago after we hosted the S'TEṈISTOLW̱ international indigenous conference and we put the plans in place."
After two Camosun students visited Ara College in Christchurch, New Zealand last March, plans developed to have their students visit here for the first time in September 2018. "We prepared an exciting schedule of activities for each day," he says. "They participated in classes, attended Orange Shirt Day and the QĆÁSET cultural camp at Prospect Lake, took part in a sweat lodge ceremony, visited the Saanich Adult Education Center, witnessed a carving demonstration, and had a meal with the Elders Voices group."
Ormiston notes that the value of exchanges are often to promote shared learning. "They were very impressed with Eyēʔ Sqȃ'lewen – The Centre for Indigenous Education & Community Connections and everything we've done to promote Indigenous cultures, reconciliation, our Elders Voices Program as well as how our Indigenous student numbers are growing every year through student supports and Indigenous pedagogies," he says. "They told me that they want to take these learnings back to New Zealand and start doing some of the same things at their institution and I think we've proven ourselves as leaders."
Looking ahead, Ormiston has ambitious plans for future trans-Pacific collaboration. "We've had some fairly high level discussions around developing a post degree certificate program and triangulating with ARA in New Zealand and an institute in Hawaii, " he says. "That's our future goal to develop a blended program in Indigenous higher education that is a multiple Indigenous centered partnership.
With the success of the Maori visit, Ormiston sees a bright future for international Indigenous exchanges. "I think the most positive thing was the sharing of knowledge, culture, identity, aspects of spirituality and the similarities and the differences and how that might form the basis of how to move forward towards self-determination," he says. "There are many things we can share in both of our institutes which provides opportunities to flourish. Some of that flourishing comes through those who have walked before us, the students we are connected to, allies and those in the community. Wisdom sits in many places!'
Learn more about Camosun's Centre for Indigenous Education & Community Connections.