UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 11 | July
Honour, challenge and responsibility
The new director of the First Nations House of Learning wants
Aboriginal students to outnumber totem poles at UBC
In a ceremony featuring eagle down, drums and dancers, Richard
Vedan became director of the First Nations House of Learning (FNHL)
by accepting a talking stick from former director Jo-Ann Archibald.
"It's an honour to be involved with this house," says Vedan who
is an associate professor of Social Work and Family Studies. "I
feel privileged to be able to build on the legacies of previous
directors and to give back the support I have received."
A UBC alumnus and member of the Shuswap Nation who joined the
faculty in 1995, Vedan has served on the boards of Vancouver Friendship
Centre, the Native Education Centre and the Vancouver Police and
Native Liaison Society.
"This is an exciting time for First Nations academics," he says.
"We're starting to see more than one person per faculty and that's
something entirely new."
A key challenge of the new position will be to increase student
"It's been said that there are more totem poles than First Nations
students at UBC," says Vedan.
He plans to take more aggressive steps to connect UBC and FNHL
with colleges and other Canadian universities in order to attract
undergraduate and graduate students. Advances such as the Prior
Learning Assessment Program that gives credit for life-learning
helps to make university education a possibility not just for young
people but also for students in mid-life.
There is a great need for well-educated expert advisors as First
Nations regain governance and other responsibilities, says Vedan.
Long-standing programs in the faculties of Law, Education, Medicine
and Forestry that provide First Nations curriculum and support for
students can serve as models in meeting the demand for First Nations
But the educational challenges reach right back to elementary
school, says Vedan. The dropout level for First Nations youth is
about Grade 5 -- a consequence of what he terms multi-generational
First Nations educators are needed to teach and encourage students
to stay in school. In addition, solutions must be found for health,
economic and social problems that contribute to the dropout rate.
Vedan will continue to teach and pursue his clinical and research
interest in the efficacy of traditional healing practices in dealing
with violent behaviour in First Nations men and youth. In addition,
he is completing a doctorate in curriculum development.
An active man who enjoys cycling and music, he is also a sailor
who balances his life with time spent on his 12-metre ketch called
St'iqt Qwy'ilc or Cloud Dancer.