Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) welcomed its first elder in residence at a special installation ceremony at its Surrey campus on Thursday.
Lekeyten, a well-known and respected member of the Kwantlen First Nation in Fort Langley, has taken on this important role.
“In my travels, I have always been respectful of the teachings of people, and I’m always learning,” Lekeyten told the audience of friends, family and KPU faculty and staff. “I’m coming to join every classroom, and I’m going to learn as well.”
One of 20 Kwantlen First Nation elders, Lekeyten grew up attending day school. While they were similar to residential schools, day schools did not require students to stay overnight and they returned home at the end of every day.
But the teachings were the same, said Lekeyten, and he and his classmates were taught to be quiet. As a result, Lekeyten spent more time in nature than in school, and he soon found his voice.
Fast forward to adulthood, and Lekeyten has been avidly involved for more than 20 years as a guest speaker and presenter at all levels of elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as trades and conferences in the Lower Mainland. His talks are about the environment, land and water use, fishing, and issues of conservation and its traditional importance.
His advice at the elder in residence installation ceremony: “Never shut up.”
The installation included warm remarks from many who have known and worked alongside Lekeyten.
Former KPU anthropology instructor Laura Cooper spoke of her lengthy friendship with Lekeyten. She said he taught her how to be a better instructor and a better human being. The latter lessons he also shared with students.
“I still get emails from students whose lives have been touched, and these students are in their 40s.”
Speaking directly to Lekeyten, Cooper expressed her gratitude for his teaching students and instructors to be more humble and more compassionate.
KPU criminology instructor Lisa Monchalin, who is of Algonquin, Metis and Huron descent, described Lekeyten as one of the most honest and intelligent people she’s ever met, and said KPU is honoured to have him as its first elder in residence.
President and vice-chancellor Dr. Alan Davis described how all new students at KPU are greeted at the start of their studies at the university by Lekeyten, who has a history of welcoming every student and bringing with him a blessing.
“It’s a moment they never forget, I’m sure.”
Chancellor Dr. George Melville, officiating at the installation, said he’s confident Lekeyten will bring the best of himself to his role as KPU’s first elder in residence.
Speaking for Lekeyten’s family, many of whom were present at the installation, Kwantlen First Nation elder Kevin Kelly noted “today is a wonderful day.”
The primary focus of the elder in residence program is to support and encourage Aboriginal students on their educational journey. Lekeyten will share knowledge, traditions and teachings with individual students and groups and will work with the university to encourage and promote understanding and respect for indigenous perspectives, culture and values.