Middle Aged Student

Mature StudentWhy? Why not I respond! I deserve to continue to educate myself regardless of my age……everyone has that right. I must say though it is challenging to return to school where the average age is twenty something and I, well, I am a little more seasoned! Believe me it was an incredible risk I took to walk in those doors and be one of the oldest in my program but I am proud I did. My challenges may be somewhat different as I don’t have young children at home, I have a lot more life experience behind me, working my older more weathered brain in a different way, and my wrinkles are a little more pronounced. I do have to worry about making ends meet, rent and bills are paid, ensure there is enough food in the cupboard, studying, completing assignments, and attending classes.

So this brings me to the answer, my answer, as to why I want to go back to school and that is that I deserve a better future even though my retirement is closer than some of my peers. I want to wake up daily and be content with my career, to have a sustainable income, room for growth, and the opportunity to have my currently mostly dark brown hair turn white through the years I will have put into my job!

I don’t think a number should dictate whether a person should return to school, it should never stop anyone from pursuing their goals. As my grandmother always said, education is something no one can take away from you.  It opens doors, it provides you with a sense of accomplishment, and it helps to build your confidence.

I'm a mature student

Let’s face it, in today’s job market employers are looking for qualified employees, so with a good educational background you’re more likely to be hired. As much as I want to make my family proud of seeing me succeed at school, I want to make myself proud of this accomplishment.

The Totem Poles at Brockton Point

Totem Pole at Stanley Park - NEC Vancouver Field Trip: Tourism ProgramIt is a beautiful sunny day in Vancouver, and our Aboriginal Tourism class is off to another wonderful field trip.  Today we are going to Stanley Park to learn about totem poles.  The outing is led by knowledgeable tour guide Gary Johnston, who we are lucky to have access to through the school. (Yes he works here at the college!)  I have become interested in learning more about the stories behind the poles, and also about the story of the pole at the college.

Aboriginal people carve cedar trees into poles to record history, to symbolize inherited rights and privileges or to interpret stories and events. For the most part, in the past, only a Chief or person of high rank in a band could commission a pole to be made.

Stanley Park got its first pole in 1903 as a gift, and has been adding poles ever since. More poles were added at Vancouver’s Golden Jubilee celebration in 1936, at the Centennial, and at Expo 86.  Renovations were done in 2006 and now there are many poles at the park representing cultures from all over the province, new interpretive signage, and a gift shop.

Vancouver’s climate is extremely Native Education College Field Trip:  Stanley Park Totem Poles hard on the Totem Poles, and the poles do not stand up to the elements for too long. Many of the originals are now in museums, and replacement poles were commissioned and carved. The poles attract over 3 million people a year and are the # 1 tourist attraction in the Province.

All poles have a story legend or meaning behind the art. There are many kinds of poles for different occasions, or events.

Native Education College Field Trip, Aboriginal Tourism Program: Stanley Park Totem PolesSome of the different types of poles:

Interior House Posts: which held up the massive beams in a longhouse.

Carved Planks: attached to the inside or outside of ceremonial dance houses.

House Frontal Poles: or Portal poles, which served as doorways. (Like the pole at the college.)

Mortuary Poles: which could hold the remains of a chief or a high ranking person in a cavity box at the top.

Free Standing Memorial Poles: erected in the memory of a past chief.

Grave figures: which were carved in memory of a deceased Chief or other carved spirit figures that were part of ceremonial life.

Welcome Figures: Which Stanley Park Totem Pole captured on Native Education Colle Field Tripwelcomed important guests arriving for a Potlatch or other feast.

Shame Poles or Figures: To ridicule another Chief or family for improper behavior.

I hope you found this information of the totems interesting and that this encourages you to explore the meaning behind any Totems that you come across. If you are interested in the stories behind the poles at Stanley Park, there is a book you can buy in the school store called Totem Poles of Stanley Park by Vickie Jensen. There may not be a written record of some of the other poles around BC, but if you talk to elders in the communities where the poles are from, or find out who the artist is,  you may hear some wisdom that has been passed down verbally through many generations.

Welcoming Ceremony: Honoring the Past Present and Future

At the beginning of each year Native Education College hosts a “Welcoming Ceremony” to welcome the new students to the school. It is a fun event where new friendships are made, traditional songs are sung, students and faculty participate in traditional dancing, and everyone learns about the history of the college.

This year the traditional speaker/singer Robert Williams of the Squamish Nation explained the protocols of the longhouse and how we leave the negative energy outside and bring in the positive energy as we enter though the totem pole. Robert Williams explained that everybody that enters though the ceremonial entrance also represents the countless doors, opportunities, and promising careers for students pursuing and completing higher academic education.