Day in the life: Nick Claxton


- Crystal Bergeron

A day in the life of the Faculty of Education’s Nick “Xumthoult” Claxton means getting one step closer to building the bridge between the UVic community and local Indigenous communities.

Employed since September of 2009 as Indigenous advisor/coordinator, Claxton not only advises students on programs and admission procedures within the faculty, he acts as a liaison between Indigenous students and other services on campus and as a resource for non-Indigenous students, faculty and staff on cultural issues, protocol and other Indigenous issues and topics. He also taught the popular experiential course, “Learning and Teaching in an Indigenous World” in the faculty’s popular Indigenous Education Summer Institute last July.

“I’m here as a vital link between our two communities,” says Claxton. “I often get calls from First Nations students who are thinking about attending UVic and wondering if we’ll be a good fit for them. I tell them 'yes.' I work at a university that’s a true innovator in Indigenous education and a leader at incorporating Indigenous ways of learning, knowing and teaching into its programs.”

And Claxton should know. Born and raised in his homeland of WSÁNEĆ, he’s a UVic alum, having completed his undergraduate degree in psychology here in 2000 followed by a master’s degree in Indigenous governance.

“I actually started out my post-secondary education on a lacrosse scholarship to Brown University in the States,” he says. “I loved playing on the lacrosse team, but never came across a single Indigenous student in my year there. I decided I was better off at home living and learning in my own territory. Naturally UVic was the perfect choice for me.”

In addition to his duties at the university, Claxton is a busy husband and father of three children. “I have two wonderful boys, aged 16 and 12, and a beautiful daughter who is 9,” he proudly boasts. “My wife and I try to instill in them what our parents taught us; that higher education will make your life better not only for you, but for your community as well. I teach my children the importance of life-long learning and learning through doing. We learn our language of SENĆOŦEN from my father who is one of only a few fluent speakers left in the WSÁNEĆ community. I teach them traditional ways to hunt and fish and as well, and stress the fact that this is not sport. We only hunt what we are going to actually eat and use. There are values and respect given to the animal and its spirit always.”

Claxton’s determination with his ancestral values doesn’t stop at home. He recently started a PhD program in curriculum studies at UVic. “I want to envision and develop a curriculum that is rooted in Indigenous knowledge and ways of learning and teaching,” he says. “Right now we’re educating our children with a curriculum that is not our own identity–I want our WSÁNEĆ identity and way of life to be instilled in every facet of our children’s school lives. Who knows? Maybe one day my research will serve as a model for other communities to adapt their own culture, knowledge and history to school curricula.”

If Nick Claxton has anything to do with it, you can bet his research will indeed be modeled for children everywhere, and he will continue to help build a stronger community for us all, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, one bridge at a time.

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Keywords: Day in the Life, staff, Indigenous, community

People: Nick Claxton

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