Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) welcomed its first Elder in Residence at a special installation ceremony Jan. 29.
Lekeyten, of the Kwantlen First Nation, has taken 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; 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 teaching us all 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.
KPU 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.”
KPU 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 KPU’s Elder in Residence program is to support and encourage Aboriginal students on their educational journey. In his role, Lekeyten will share their 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.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses — Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley — offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 124 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at www.kpu.ca