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Portage Honours Community Partnerships with a Pipe Ceremony

On December 2, 2019, Portage College invited all the regional communities to participate in a traditional pipe ceremony to honour all of the First Nations and Metis communities within the College region. This gathering was to celebrate friendship and education and to mark the College’s commitment to ongoing partnership. The event was held at the Lac La Biche campus gymnasium with Beaver Lake Cree Nation honouring us as the host nation.

This ceremony honoured the success of the last 50 years and signified moving forward in the next half century alongside each other. This was also a celebration of Portage College and Canadian Natural visiting regional communities, offering free BBQs, and providing opportunities for community members to discuss their needs from the College.

Getting prepared for the pipe ceremony
Knowledge Keepers, Pipe Holders and Elder Helpers educating Portage College executive on the pipe ceremony tradition and how it will begin.

“The College was so grateful for the Elders, community leaders and partners who were in attendance during this very spiritual and uplifting event for the College,” said Nancy Broadbent, President and CEO of Portage College. “We are so fortunate to have the support of people in our communities.”

Following the pipe ceremony, Portage invited the attendees to gather for the opening of the new student lounge area at the Lac La Biche campus. Mrs. Broadbent said a few words about the opening, referencing back to Portage’s 50th anniversary commemorative tile and the significance of the open door pictured on the tile:

As education opens the mind to new conceptual spaces, the open door beside the landed canoe speaks to your arrival, to your being welcomed, to your opportunity to share in the knowledge and wisdom of others, and the ever-present need for all of us to be stewards of the natural world.

This was followed with an honour song (sung by Skyler Makokis, Leonard Whitford, Jayroy Makokis and Ben Steinhauer), cake cutting and socializing.

Honour Song for Student Lounge
Singers of Honour Song from left to right: Skyler Makokis, Leonard Whitford, Jayroy Makokis and Ben Steinhauer.

All the furniture within the student lounge was donated by the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre. The framed photos and pictures were hung by the Portage College Museum of Aboriginal Peoples’ Art and Artifacts. Finally, the windows were painted by our Native Arts and Culture program students. Together, these create a warm and welcoming space.

Student Lounge
Student Lounge at the Lac La Biche Portage College Campus.

Portage College will have a grand opening of the space in 2020 when a name is chosen to honour Portage College founders. In 1970, these founding men and women stood up for education through a peaceful sit-in which established the college.

“The new student lounge will bring positive energy to our entrance at the Lac La Biche Campus.  It will provide a strong visual representation of the history of the College and allow us to share stories of the region with all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who visit,” said Broadbent.

Portage College thanks all who have welcomed us into their communities this year. Our partners, such as Canadian Natural, and the Indigenous communities have played an integral role in the history of Portage College.