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Prominent Guest Helps Mark 5th Anniversary of Kitlope Field School

Professor and distinguished ethnobotanist Dr. Nancy Turner joined Northwest Community Colleges 2007 Kitlope Field School this summer, helping mark the 5th anniversary of this one of a kind program. At the invitation of the Na na kila Institute, Dr. Turner joined students for the field study portion of the Kitlope Field School. Dr. Turner is a professor in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria and has worked with key First Nations people around the province learning and researching the significance of plants in First Nations culture. During the Kitlope Field School she helped introduce students to the Kitlopes vast and unique diversity of plant life, including the cultural usages of plants for food, medicinal, tools, and other purposes. Dr. Turner's extensive knowledge contributed significantly to the students discovery and understanding of the area's unique ecology and its significance to the Haisla/Henaaksiala nation. "Nancy Turner's participation in the fifth year of the Kitlope Field School was exciting for all of us at Na na kila," states Brenda Duncan, Executive Director of the Na na kila Institute. "Dr. Turner's contribution to the preservation of our culture through her work cannot be put into words. Staff was in awe of the amount of knowledge that Dr. Turner shared with the group and that she knew it in 5 different languages. Much respect and appreciation for Dr. Nancy Turner's participation on this field study trip." The only program of its kind in Canada, the Kitlope Field School began in 2003 and was developed through a three way partnership between Northwest Community College, the Na na kila Institute, and Alcan Primary Metals BC. The Field School is part of a dual Anthropology and Geography summer session course package offered through the Colleges University Credit Program. It allows students to earn 6 fully transferable university credits in 6 weeks - 5 of which are spent in the classroom with the remaining five days in the field. Students of the Kitlope Field School are given the opportunity to experience the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world and ancestral home of the Haisla/Henaaksiala through the stories and guidance of Haisla/Henaaksiala Elders, Hereditary Chiefs and the Na na kila Watchmen - an experience very few people have ever had. The five day exploration takes them into the heart of the Kitlope where they learn about its ancient natural and cultural heritage. "This partnership is definitely a unique and valuable experience for the communities, organizations and the participants in general," continues Duncan. "The five-day cultural immersion within our traditional territories demonstrates how our Nuyem (Haisla traditional laws) and ancestral teachings have assisted us in the conservation and management of our traditional lands and resources for thousands of years. We are finally able to provide an opportunity to combine our traditional teachings with formal education at the Post Secondary level, and the students learn first hand how these complement each other. -More importantly, based on the feedback from all five year participants confirms to us all, that there does not have to be an either/or approach to managing the lands and resources, there is a lot to be learned from working together. We are grateful for our partnership with NWCC and Alcan in achieving this objective and passing it on to so many students who have participated to date. We definitely look forward to even more memorable trips, friendships and connections with students in the future. -Huchsduwach continues its magic! Another group of students has experienced a life changing week in a watershed that for generations has provided the soul with nourishment. This initiative is critical to the relationships that we hope will flourish in the next decade." The Field School also takes students on a guided tour through Alcans Kemano campsite and power house to learn of the monumental engineering structure that provides hydro generated electricity to Alcans smelter operations in Kitimat. Students also learn of Alcans ongoing conservationist activities from their Environmental Engineers. "For the last 5 years, Alcan has had the pleasure of co-sponsoring the Kitlope Field Study along with the Haisla Nation's Na na kila Institute and Northwest Community College for students enrolled in the college's anthropology and geography courses. Alcan's role is to assist in the development of students understanding of the intricate relationship between industry and nature and Alcan's role in protection and sustainability in regards to its environmental footprint. Each year the students present an account of their Kitlope experience to Alcan officials which proves the value of the endeavour and the enrichment of the course through the field trip," states Colleen Nyce, Manager of Corporate Affairs and Community Relations for Alcan. Program students have come from as far away as Alberta to participate in the Kitlope Field School. Each has come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the cultural and natural significance of the area, its history, and the importance of keeping it intact for current and future generations. "The Kitlope Field School is a rare and beneficial program," explains NWCC President Stephanie Forsyth. "It brings together a meeting of the minds between western scientists, cultural anthropologists, industry leaders, First Nations Elders and Hereditary Chiefs. The student is witness and participant in the dialogues that occur between these varying view points and perspectives as traditional knowledge and western science is shared and discussed. The Kitlope Field School program was not only designed to recognize and provide a respectful sharing of these two paradigms, but also to facilitate learning in an applied, experiential way - a method in keeping with Aboriginal ways of learning. The program would not be possible without the ongoing participation and support of both the Na na kila Institute and Alcan." More information on Northwest Community College"s Kitlope Field School can be found on their web site at

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