With the settlement of what is now known as British Columbia, residential schools and public schools were established to re-educate aboriginal children in colonial language, history and culture. The manadatory attendance of Nuxalk children at these schools undermined traditional systems of education and worked to strip Nuxalk children of our own identity. Our ancestors realized that we would have to learn the new ways while at the same time maintain our own Nuxalk identity.
With the closing of residential schools, Nuxalk Elders directed community leadership to look into the possibility of establishing a Nuxalk school and in the early 1970s an advisory group was established. The first success of the new advisory group was the Kii Kii Tii Nursery School.
In the spring of 1982, structural failure at the public school caused thirty-eight Nuxalk families to withdraw their children. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Nuxalk took action and modified several buildings to accommodate classes.
The new school adopted the philosophy of the best of two worlds and the new school was named “Acwsalcta,” which translates as “Place of Learning.” Acwsalcta began operating in September 1982 without a formal school building.
The Nuxalk struggled to secure funding for a new school building and after significant set backs, the Nuxalk Education Authority was established in 1985 to focus solely on education issues. The new strategy was a success. In 1985, the Nuxalk received funding to design a school and construction began in June 1986.
It took thirteen months for the 90% Nuxalk construction crew to complete the school. Acwsalcta officially opened on August 27, 1987. The Nuxalk commemorated the opening with a three- day celebration. Acwsalcta is living proof that a community vision of making a better world for our students can become a reality.
Today, Acwsalcta offers educational programming for grades kindergarten to grade 12. In addition to providing provincial curriculum, the school also teaches cultural courses such as Nuxalk language, history and carving.
On May 17, 2007, Nuxalkmc and guests celebrated the Acwsalcta School’s 20 years with a potlatch and new totem pole raising. View the NorthWest Indian News coverage of the event on: YouTube – NWIN Episode #22 – Seg 2 .
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