Pulling Together Series: A Guide for Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors

Grab your paddle and join us in our canoe. In this six-week series, Marlene Erickson and Jewell Gillies will provide an overview of the BCcampus Pulling Together: A Guide for Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors resource, which reflects a holistic way for post-secondary workers to serve Indigenous students.

Many Indigenous students are first-generation learners at post-secondary institutions, and their interactions with front-line staff and service providers inform how they share their experience with their family and community. One negative experience can create harm and mistrust. Positive experiences help Indigenous students feel respected and build trust with staff and faculty. This can lead to future generations wanting to further their post-secondary education. The Pulling Together series is an opportunity for you to better understand Indigenous students and figure out how both you and your area or department can work to ensure supportive student experiences. By pulling together, we can facilitate student success and contribute to long-term improvements for Indigenous students and communities.

Series Overview 

This series requires a commitment of three hours of asynchronous study and self-reflection, along with one 90-minute synchronous session every Thursday for six weeks. We strongly advise participants to make time to attend every session in the series. Session dates and times are as follows:

  • Week 1: March 4 (12–2 p.m. PT)
  • Week 2: March 11 (12–2 p.m. PT)
  • Week 3: March 18 (12–2 p.m. PT)
  • Week 4: March 25 (12–2 p.m. PT)
  • Week 5: April 1 (12–2 p.m. PT)
  • Week 6: April 8 (12–2 p.m. PT)

We will cap registrations at 50 participants, so please ensure you register early to attend the entire series.

The series will be facilitated using a variety of methods. We will host guest speakers that include an Elder, a student panel, and a keynote. Participants will collaborate with one another in weekly breakout rooms. Each participant will be mailed their own medicine pouch kit and instructed how to assemble it during one of the synchronous sessions. This communal activity is a unique aspect of the series and provides a way for participants to hold space for themselves and their own self-care during the workshop. We will also be joined by graphic recorder Michelle Buchholz, who will capture the essence of each session with a succinct visual image that will be shared with participants. Graphic recording is a modern take on the witnessing ceremony, and we are honored to have Michelle with us to witness this community work.

Themes to guide the conversation will follow the qualities and journeys of four animals important to Indigenous culture in B.C.:

  • Chetwood (the Bear) — Intentions and values. How did you get to be here today?
  • Kahkah (the Raven) — The determination to paddle. We will look at what you need to do to be successful in your journey.
  • Leloo (the Wolf) — The one who gathers the community. This theme speaks to participants’ willingness to be on this journey and make changes.
  • Sammon (the Salmon) — The wealth you take home from your journey.

By no means will you be an expert on Indigenous history, culture, or reconciliation after participating in this series, but the facilitators reassure us that no one currently is or can be. For one thing, too many different Indigenous groups and diverse representations of Indigenous peoples exist across our province and country. Additionally, Jewell says the work of creating equity for any equity-seeking group is always in progress. In reality, we will never be finished, so this is why we focus on the journey. A saying in traditional paddle communities is: “It’s the journey, not the destination.” This holds true for all work done in the anti-oppression arena. We look forward to the journey ahead with each of you.


Marlene Erickson grew up in Nak’azdli (also known as Fort St. James). She is the executive director of Aboriginal education at College of New Caledonia, where she has worked for over 25 years in various roles. She has served as director for the Yinka Dene Language Institute and as a director, advisor, and chairperson for the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. She is an executive board member of the First Nations Education Steering Committee, a policy and advocacy organization that represents and works on behalf of First Nations communities in B.C. Marlene also chairs the BC Aboriginal Coordinators Council. With her strong interest in oral history, Marlene has been a long-time advocate for language and cultural revitalization.

Jewell Gillies is Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation (northern Vancouver Island). After completing two years of study toward a criminal justice diploma at University of the Fraser Valley, Jewell spent time as a police officer in Vancouver. However, after six years in law enforcement, Jewell had to accept that the uniform was a barrier to the goals they wanted to achieve, as it represented a disturbing history for the individuals Jewell was trying to connect to and help. Jewell switched gears and began working in the educational system. Now, in their work in the Aboriginal Services Department of Okanagan College, Jewell is recognizing that they are in a better position to effect real change. They are also responsible for creating the Positive Space Committee for LGBTQ2+ students and staff at Okanagan College.

Please register ASAP. If you have further questions, please contact Gabrielle Lamontagne at glamontagne@bccampus.ca.

This event is free. To ensure we have an inclusive and welcoming environment for all, we’ve added registration to all our events.

Register now!

This notice is to inform you that this session will be recorded, archived, and made available publicly on BCcampus.ca. By participating in this session, you acknowledge that your participation in this session will be recorded and the recording will be made available openly.