Okanagan Nation inks deal with UBCO

ONA chairperson Stewart Phillip said the bonds developed with UBC are very important to the Okanagan people

ALISTAIR WATERS

Black Press

The Okanagan Nation Alliance and its member communities have renewed a memorandum of understanding with the University of B.C. Okanagan to further aboriginal education.

Since welcoming UBC in 2005, the Okanagan Nation has established a long-term relationship with the university. The memorandum of understanding with UBCO underlines the importance, opportunities and benefits of higher education for indigenous people of the Southern Interior, say local First Nation leaders.

ONA chairperson Stewart Phillip said the bonds developed with UBC are very important to the Okanagan people.

“The renewal of the MOU continues to embrace the spirit and intent of the original signing which values distinct cultures, languages, territory,  life-long excellence in learning and respect for  indigenous peoples and their lands,” said Phillip.

Deborah Buszard, principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus, believes the Okanagan people, their traditions, culture and future are essential to the university.

“We are honoured that UBC has been welcomed into the traditional territory of the Okanagan Nation, and are thankful that we have been so warmly embraced by the aboriginal community,” she said.

“Renewing our agreement with the Okanagan Nation Alliance ensures that the opportunities for higher education will continue to be available to these First Nations of the Southern Interior. Our joint initiatives are dedicated to this goal and reflect the high value we put on our relationship.”

Since the first agreement was signed between the ONA and UBCO in 2005, the number of aboriginal students at the university has grown to 300 from just 45.

Buszard said the number today is more than four times the number the province currently funds the school for.