Where the waters meet: international S’TEṈISTOLW̱ Indigenous education conference returns to Camosun College

“People have heard great things about the previous conference and we’re expecting even more people this time around,” says conference coordinator Kelly Aguirre. “We’ve had people from all around the world submit proposals and express interest in attending.”

One of the conference’s unique aspects is its focus on applied learning. “We’re not approaching it as an academic conference, it’s a practitioner’s conference,” notes Aguirre. “We’re inviting practitioners as well as scholars as well as community leaders with the focus on post secondary and adult Indigenous education in all its aspects.”

Camosun previously hosted the conference in 2017. This year, the conference schedule expands to four days, with a cultural pre-conference day held at the Songhees Wellness Centre followed by three full days of activities at Camosun’s Lansdowne campus.

“A lot of the activities will take place outside which is also quite different from other conferences,” says Aguirre. “We really want to have that feeling of having your feet on the ground and promoting that connection to land and place. We’re going to set up a large marque tent that can hold 500 people so people can mingle and picnic together.”

New this year is a marketplace. “We’re inviting exhibitors as well as Indigenous artists to sell their work,” says Aguirre. “Part of the idea is to emphasize a kind of a community building atmosphere and to showcase Indigenous art.”

The success of the 2017 conference has led Aguirre, along with colleagues Todd Ormiston and Jacquie Green, to publish a book summarizing the previous conference keynotes, workshops and highlights. The book, entitled: “S’TEṈISTOLW̱: Moving Indigenous Education Forward” will be launched this spring and will be available for purchase at the conference.

Camosun College has embraced Indigenization and reconciliation for nearly 30 years. “Camosun is recognised as a leader in particular when it comes to incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and being into the structures of the institution,” notes Aguirre. “For this year’s conference, the strength of our community partnerships, particularly with the Songhees Nation, will help us welcome our delegates to the territory, especially our international delegates who are new to this land.”

The term S’TEṈISTOLW̱ itself is a SENĆOŦEN term referencing the idea and act of moving forward. SENĆOŦEN is the ancestral language of the W̱SÁNEĆ people, one of the nations upon whose traditional territories Camosun is located. The name was given to the very first Indigenous education conference hosted by Camosun in 2007 by Tsartlip Elder and teacher STOLȻEȽ (John Elliott). Its meaning has underpinned the approach to all of the conferences since.

Attendees can expect a uniquely rewarding and meaningful conference experience rooted in Indigenous values.

“That’s really our organizational ethos, which is doing a conference in an Indigenous way, and that means that we take care of people as whole people⁠—mind, heart, body and spirit,” says Aguirre. ”We feed people really well, we make sure that everyone’s broader wellness needs are taken care of, and we work together so that they are experiencing cultural grounding and sense of place.”

Registrations are open now on the conference website:

For more information about Indigenous education at Camosun, please visit the website of the Eyēʔ Sqȃ'lewen Centre for Indigenous Education and Community Connections.

Original article from Camosun College