Kevin Brand, principal of Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School, embraces Snuneymuxw First Nation elder Lolly Good during the grand opening of the new school Friday. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School in Nanaimo features indigenous language immersion

Snunymuxw First Nation, Nanaimo school district hold grand opening at school site in Cedar

A new school in Cedar will be only the second in B.C. to feature indigenous language immersion.

Snuneymuxw First Nation, along with Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, officially unveiled the new Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School Friday, a 19,000-square foot modern school building on Stuywut Street in Cedar, replacing the old 3,800-square foot facility at Centre Street.

According to Kevin Brand, school principal, enrolment has risen to 72, from 43, and while it follows the new B.C. curriculum, it will have Hul’q’umin’um’ as its second language, instead of French.

“On a daily basis, we’re going to be interacting, and as we, as staff, learn the language ourselves, we’re going to be using that and honouring that language and we’re holding ourselves open to the teachings of the elders to improve our own language and to share that language with the children,” said Brand. “It will be in announcements, it will be in gatherings, it will be in classroom sharing circles, it will be in the hallways. In the signs in the school, in the signage out front. As much as possible, we’re seeking to identify that as the language of the school and the language of this land.”

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Brand said the school is open to all students and is similar to other specialized schools in the district.

“We don’t have a catchment area per se,” said Brand. “It’s a district choice program and so it would follow the same choice program guidelines as our (Departure Bay) eco-school and our French immersion schools, so it’s an open catchment.”

Aboriginal perspectives are part of B.C. Ministry of Education’s new curriculum and Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh is a “living testament” to that and truth and reconciliation recommendations, said B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming, who was at the grand opening.

“You see the way this school is thoughtfully designed with indigenous art and culture right here on the walls within the school,” said Fleming. “I think though, what the Snuneymuxw people can be most proud of, and School District 68, is that there’s an immersion program here. So when we talk about language revitalization, this is where we wish to be heading in many parts of B.C., to revitalize indigenous languages and ensure that … tomorrow’s generations are learning it today, so it’s a credit to School District 68, to the leadership of Snuneymuxw, that they were able to achieve what is a beautiful building.”

Mike Wyse, Snuneymuxw First Nation chief, said the school is something the First Nation has been dreaming of.

“Our nation has had a vision to build this new school to teach our children valuable education that is valid in the western world and our Snuneymuxw way of life,” Wyse told people at the grand opening. “It has always been a goal to offer a facility with the best technology … to enhance the quality of education.”

Money from the federal government, previously announced as $10.7 million, was used for construction.

The only other school to feature indigenous language immersion is in Haida Gwaii, according to the ministry.



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