Lambton College celebrates 30 years of Indigenous Education
SARNIA, April 21, 2023 - It all started in portable six.
That’s where the story of Lambton College’s Indigenous Centre began back in 1991. That’s the year the Lambton College Committee on Aboriginal Education was formed, now known as the Indigenous Education Council (IEC).
The IEC was then, and is still to this day, comprised of Indigenous representation that guides the College on Indigenous Education, identifying services, programs, courses and community training needs and opportunities.
What followed was 30 years of growth, support, community and enhanced cultural awareness for Indigenous students at Lambton College.
1992: A Year of Monumental Firsts
In 1992, Lambton College submitted a proposal to what was then the Ministry of Colleges, Universities and Training for a meeting space, an Indigenous typist, an Indigenous Counsellor, and a First Nations Communities course.
That same year, the proposal was approved, and it provided funding for two Indigenous Education employees at Lambton College – they worked out of The Indigenous Centre, which was set up outside in portable number six.
Shortly after the Indigenous Centre was created, the first Indigenous Student Council was formed, marking the first group of Indigenous learners to come together to promote a sense of community for Indigenous students and enhance cultural awareness on campus.
Aamjiwnaang student Harrison Plain also designed the first Indigenous Centre logo.
1992 was also the first year that a mini Pow Wow was held at Lambton College.
1993: A Year of Ups and Downs
After working so hard to secure funding to support Indigenous learners, and hiring Indigenous employees, continued Ministry funding was not approved for the following year.
However, the College paid one employee’s part-time salary, while local First Nations and an employment program provided funding for the second position.
That same year, the Indigenous Centre moved out of portable six and into the basement of the College, a sign that Indigenous Education at Lambton College was here to stay.
1994 - 2014: Indigenous Education Gains Prominence
Ministry funding was restored in 1994.
And all the while, Indigenous Education was gaining in prominence across the province.
Sarnia-Lambton took notice of this work as well, and by 2004 an organization called Visions of Harmony had formed, and Lambton College joined forces with local First Nations, local industry, and the Workforce Development Board to bring awareness of Technology and Trades to First Nation youth.
An additional Indigenous Education position was created in 2008: the First Nation Bridging Coordinator, now known as the Indigenous Student Success Coordinator.
And in 2011, the Indigenous Centre moved up to the main floor of the College.
Lambton College also joined the Indigenous Peoples Education Circle that year, a collective body representing Indigenous Education at the provincial level.
In 2013, Lambton College formalized its institutional commitment to Indigenous Education by embedding a focus on Indigenous Student Success into the 2013-2018 Strategic Plan. This was followed up by the College’s first-ever Indigenous Academic and Student Success Plan in 2014.
2015 - 2020: Major Commitments and Milestones
In 2015, Lambton College recognized and reaffirmed its responsibilities to Indigenous Education on a national level through the signing of the Colleges and Institutes Canada Indigenous Education Protocol. This signed protocol is currently hanging in the Indigenous Student Centre.
Also in 2015, Lambton College created a new Indigenous Education leadership position – the Manager of Indigenous Education, who would ensure Indigenous Education representation on the College Leadership Team.
2016 was a year of community and industry involvement. Shell Canada stepped up as a valued partner of Indigenous education at Lambton College, providing support for a three-year initiative that included summer camps, a Welding program for Indigenous learners, and further Technology & Trades engagement.
Visions of Harmony also launched the Wheels to Lambton initiative, providing transportation to and from Aamjiwnaang and Walpole Island First Nations.
The College celebrated the 25th anniversary Pow Wow in 2017 with a vibrant three-day event that included a student symposium.
The original logo was retired in 2018, and an updated Indigenous Student Centre logo was designed in consultation with Indigenous Education staff and student representatives.
In 2019, a focus on Truth and Reconciliation in collaboration with Indigenous communities was embedded in the 2019-2024 Strategic Plan.
An Indigenous Studies Degree Pathway program was also developed in partnership with Mohawk College and McMaster and Wilfrid Laurier Universities. This Pathway created eight Indigenous electives at Lambton College.
To cap off the year, the Indigenous Outdoor Gathering Space Steering Committee was formed, that saw hundreds of volunteer hours dedicated to shape the vision, purpose and design of the proposed new space.
2020 - 2023: Taking Action Post-Pandemic
When COVID-19 struck in 2020, Shell Canada once again stepped up and helped to fund College Study Hubs in local First Nations. These innovative spaces offset impacts of the pandemic on Indigenous learners by providing free broadband internet, computers, and dedicated study space to Indigenous learners from any postsecondary institution.
In 2021, Lambton College took the necessary step of forming a Truth and Reconciliation Task Force to address the Calls to Action relevant to postsecondary and Lambton College.
An Indigenous Professor position was also created that year, and Lambton College was awarded the Colleges and Institutes Canada Bronze Award of Excellence for Indigenous Education.
The final renderings of the Indigenous Outdoor Gathering Space were revealed in 2022, laying the groundwork for a culturally prominent and safe space for Indigenous learners to feel empowerment and ownership in a western education institution. The space will also host events, ceremonies, and Indigenous Studies classes and learning opportunities.
The College also developed an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy that includes the essential pillar of Indigenizing and Decolonizing the campus.
In early 2023, a new academic structure was also announced that introduced a new Director of Indigenous Education role, responsible for the Indigenous Student Centre, which includes Indigenous partnership development, Indigenous student support services, Indigenous student liaison, and Indigenous outreach and access.
A second Indigenous Professor and a part-time Indigenous Student Navigator are also being hired.
The last 30 years have brought incredible growth and development for Indigenous Education at Lambton College.
Moving forward with Indigenous Education, Lambton College will continue to honour and build on its commitments to serve Indigenous learners and communities, and remains dedicated to the Indigenization of curriculum and student experiences across all programs and throughout the Sarnia-Lambton community.
This tremendous success can be credited to the incredible capacity for caring shown by the people responsible for Indigenous Education throughout the years. That care is what drives the hard work and innovation that has created 30 years worth of student success.
And that can be traced all the way back to portable number six.