It was a meeting of the minds and hearts this past weekend as TRU hosted 20 Ch’nook Scholars for a weekend of speakers and networking—an assembly of spirited individuals, passionate about the future.
Ch’nook program director Miranda Huron welcomed the visitors to TRU on Friday, remarking that the second gathering is where they will really get to know each other.
Returning scholars can attest to this. All 20 of the students took the weekend to learn more about each other’s cultures, backgrounds and ambitions, and find ways to support each other in the future. Site tours, panel discussions and workshops made for a fully packed visit.
Touring Quaaout Lodge on Saturday was a definite highlight for many. The scholars commented on the inspirational power of witnessing a community vision come to life and enjoyed this particular demonstration of Aboriginal entrepreneurship.
“Hearing Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson speak about the economic and environmental challenges the Okanagan is facing was important,” said Sarah Melnyk, a TRU School of Business and Economics student from the Métis Nation of BC. “These discussions solidify the need for Indigenous scholars to complete our education and help our communities to find that balance between development and protecting the land.”
A theme that wove through the weekend was learning more about the local bands which are having to make big decisions, weighing choices that remain true to their ancestors and traditions but also support advancement within the growing economic world for future generations.
“The discussions on extraction throughout the weekend were extremely profound and I really got a sense of the challenges we face in the future,” said Alana Green, a University of Victoria student, proud of her Cree ancestry from her paternal side, and Coast Salish ancestry on her maternal side.
“It will be our responsibility as future Indigenous business leaders to help our communities make the best choices. This makes Ch’nook special, there is no fear in facilitating those difficult conversations about the challenges we face,” added Green.
“The scholars were highly engaged in discussing real-world issues faced by Indigenous communities,” said Hafiz Rahman, faculty member in economics and member of the Ch’nook Advisory Board.
Some of the challenges Aboriginal business students face are unique and having the Ch’nook support system has been a benefit to many.
“The Ch’nook network is powerful, it gives us access to a vast set of collective knowledge and contacts for both business and personal development,” said Keenan Beavis, a University of the Fraser Valley student from the Métis Nation of BC. “I look forward to developing the friendships I gained over the weekend into the future.”
“The Ch’nook program has changed my life,” said Green. “At the final gathering in Kamloops it was a difficult moment for me to fully realize I would be graduating and not be coming back in the fall. It was actually an emotional moment for me when I said goodbye to the group even though I know these relationships will live on.”
“Additionally, I was so honoured to be voted the graduating class valedictorian by my peers because I really feel as though Ch’nook has given me a voice.”
Ch’nook students continue to stand as pillars of support for the program, even after graduation. Their aim is to provide an everlasting legacy for future youth.