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Kapiʻolani Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges are boosting Indigenization, sharing of knowledge and study abroad through two memorandums of understanding with a Canadian community college.

two people signing paper
Kapiʻolani CC Chancellor Pagotto and NIC President Domae signs agreement between the two colleges.

The first agreement lays the groundwork for student, faculty and staff exchanges between North Island College (NIC) and the seven UH Community College campuses. The agreement allows NIC students to pay NIC tuition while studying at a UH Community College in Hawaiʻi. NIC’s campuses and facilities are located on or near Vancouver Island.

The second agreement builds upon the 15-year relationship between Kapiʻolani CC and NIC, with an expanded focus on educational pathways, joint research projects and cultural exchange opportunities for students, faculty and staff.

“Though the histories of the First Nations of Canada and the Native Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi diverge in the details, it is clear that much is shared: deeply held convictions about sovereignty, the primacy of cultural and linguistic heritage, and sacred relationships with the land,” said Kapiʻolani CC Chancellor Louise Pagotto. “We have so much to learn from each other about how to promote Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing within Western academic institutions for the betterment of our communities. Our agreement memorializes these shared goals and commits us to furthering these deep connections.”

Visit to Kapiʻolani CC

hula performance
Kapiʻolani CC Dean of Arts and Sciences Nāwaʻa Napoleon and Keauhou Mitchell-Aldan presenting hula kahiko.

The signings were part of NIC’s recent visit to Kapiʻolani CC, where Kwakʻwala (an Indigenous language from Western Canada) students in the Indigenous Language Fluency Certificate from Port Hardy, were invited to Honolulu for a cultural exchange. The cohort was offered in partnership with the Kwakiult, Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw and Quatsino Nations.

“We raise our hands in gratitude to University of Hawaiʻi Vice President for Community Colleges Erika Lacro, Kapiʻolani Community College Chancellor Louise Pagotto, the Native Hawaiian Council and Dean Nāwaʻa Napoleon for hosting NIC,” said NIC President and CEO Lisa Domae. “Indigenous-led, land-based language revitalization is at the very heart of NIC’s commitment to ‘work together as one’ and to walk the long path toward truth and reconciliation. As island schools, we share a special kinship with the University of Hawaiʻi and Kapiʻolani Community College that we look forward to growing together. These two agreements build on our previous relationships and expand opportunities for students to include studying abroad as part of their learning at NIC.”

people dancing
Dressed in traditional blankets, ermine, and cedar, NIC presented dances from their ancestors.

The 10-day visit focused on revitalizing the deeply rooted connections that were established generations ago with Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island and to exchange dialogue on Indigenization and Native Hawaiian language revitalization with UH and Kapiʻolani CC. The rich conversations about Indigenous education, knowledge, practices and the ʻaina-based learning around the island of Oʻahu were facilitated by Napoleon and members of ʻAha Kalāualani, the college’s Native Hawaiian Council.

The final day of the cultural exchange saw both Kapiʻolani CC and NIC share protocol, chants and dances. Napoleon presented a mele (song), which he had composed based on the events that had taken place during NIC’s visit to Oʻahu. Keauhou Mitchell-Aldan, of ʻAha Kalāualani, composed and danced a hula kahiko to accompany the mele.

large group of people
Students, faculty and staff from NIC and Kapiʻolani CC gather at Ka Wehena Kaiao on campus.
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