2017 ASA Student Stories

Aboriginal Student Affairs (ASA) is reaching out to recent alumni and current students to provide advice to new and current students at UBC. Check back on this page to learn tips on how to find community on campus, how students overcame challenges during their degree programs, and what kinds of opportunities students should consider taking advantage of while at UBC.


Salia Joseph is from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation and grew up on Vancouver Island. She recently graduated from First Nations and Indigenous Studies (FNIS) in 2016. She is a community organizer and facilitator interested in Indigenous rights, culture and politics and passionate about youth and women advocacy work. Read more to find out what Salia is doing now and why she chose this path.

You’ve recently graduated from FNIS! How does it feel to be done and what are you doing now?

I graduated in the spring of 2016, after 4 years in the program. It changed my life in many ways and I am deeply grateful to the faculty for that. There is a lot that I miss about being in those classes with my classmates and learning with and from each other. However, by the end of the program, the call to be working for and with, my nation was as strong as ever. FNIS gave me lots of the language to articulate just how important community based work and grassroots activism is.


Now I am working for my community, the Squamish Nation, in the culture and education department. My supervisor is Joy Joseph-McCullough who is very active in cultural revitalization work and the spread of culture to our community, particularly the youth. I have so much to learn from her and am thrilled to work for her doing a variety of different projects such as tribal canoe journeys, culture camps, indigenous plant medicine garden, and facilitating weaving workshops.

I heard you are starting the Temstl’i7 ta Sníchim program in the fall, why did you choose to take the Squamish Language program? Could you elaborate on why learning the language is so important to you and your community?

As I think about my future, the future of my family, my community, it continually comes back to language. Our language was so nearly stolen from us and I want to be a part of the growing number of nation members who are fighting to keep it in our community. I want to understand my elders in their own tongue, I want to sit with them and have them know that their fight for their culture and who we are as Sḵwx̱wú7mesh peoples was worth it all.  I want to know what is being said during ceremony, to be able to listen to our leaders speak to our family, and know what is being asked of us. I want to pray to my ancestors in their own language so they really hear us, and can feel the sounds of their words in their hearts.

What is one thing you know now, that you didn’t know when you started at UBC?
Oh, that’s a tough one. Ha. I think the healing that comes as a result of this type of learning has been the most significant for me as it gave me context to understand why things are the way they are, it gave me language for the injustice and grief I see in my family and community, but most importantly it gave me the tools to fully understand and appreciate the strength and resistance that I see all around me.

How did your undergrad experience prepare you for life after graduation?
It helped carve out my personal, professional, and cultural trajectory. It introduced me to friends that I will keep close forever.

Who inspires you?
Single mammas!

Do you have any advice for current and new Aboriginal students?
Check out the longhouse and go to the Tuesday lunches. Remember, we come from intelligent peoples and our ancestors are so proud of us.


ASA Tip: If you’re interested in learning a First Nations language, as well as methodology on language documentation, conservation and revitalization, check out UBC’s First Nations and Endangered Languages Program here.