Programs, Training & More

To align with the government's commitment to truth and reconciliation, we're constantly working toward incorporating Indigenous cultural awareness programming at Portage College.

Below is a list of Indigenous programs, courses, training, events, and initiatives lead by the College.

Certificate & Diploma Programs

This 10-month certificate program provides a solid knowledge-base in traditional Aboriginal art forms, introductory-level theory, and fine art and craft media skills. Students learn traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art forms such as beading, carving, footwear, sewing, decorative arts, nature crafts, and hide tanning as well as the cultural and historic significance of these art forms. The study of Aboriginal art is complimented by the teaching of various visual art skills in the areas of drawing, painting, sculpture, print making, and mixed media.

The courses introduce and develop specific techniques that students can use to create work inspired by traditional and contemporary approaches. Students learn the knowledge and skills needed for professional practice and are taught about promotion of their work though exposure and sales. In addition, students have the opportunity to work with an artist from the visiting art program.

Aboriginal Art Certificate

This 10-month diploma program follows the Aboriginal Art Certificate. In the second year of the program, students continue studying the traditional Aboriginal and contemporary art forms in advanced courses in painting and drawing, hide tanning, carving, sewing, footwear, beadwork, nature crafts, and decorative arts while identifying an area of focus or interest. The program includes studio courses, giving students the opportunity for directed study, under the supervision of instructors, in an identified area of interest or skill, such as drawing and painting, printmaking, carving, digital media, or other media.

Students learn about marketing and entrepreneurial skills, such as business networking, pricing artwork, and quality standards. The program also allows students to develop their own websites. Whether the goal is self-employment or work in the field of Aboriginal arts and culture, students can combine their love of art with entrepreneurial skills to begin a fulfilling career.

Artisan Entrepreneurship Diploma

The Community Social Work Diploma is diverse and recognizes students' individual experiences and strengths. Each of the courses within the program addresses Indigenous content. When selecting textbooks, materials pertaining to Indigenous issues are sought after. Students are involved in Aboriginal teachings from guest speakers and participation in sessions, such as the Blanket Exercise and a tour of the Residential School at University nuhelot'įne thaiyots'į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills. An Elder is also part of the program's Advisory Committee to provide feedback.

Faculty members of the Community Social Work program have all completed diversity awareness training and are engaged in the Indigenous Canada course through the University of Alberta. A few members have also completed the Aboriginal Awareness course through Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Indigenous awareness is a common theme within our program and both staff and students are encouraged to increase their knowledge in this area.

Community Social Work Diploma


Introductory Cree Part One provides instruction at the introductory level.  Students will learn basic Plains Cree (Y Dialect) conversational skills. This course is designed to focus on speaking and listening skills.  Students will learn conversational skills through online instruction, group activities and project work. The goal of this course is to expand vocabulary and increase the student's fluency in spoken Plains Cree. Situations at home, school or community will be used to engage learners. Cree culture and protocol will be discussed to enhance the accurate use of particular Cree words during a dialogue.  This course will prepare students for Intermediate levels of Cree language study at the university level.

This course provides an introduction to the study of the history, cultures, and present concerns of Aboriginal peoples in North America from an anthropological perspective, with a focus on First Nations in Canada. Traditional lifeways and contemporary issues will be discussed through the examination of different culture areas across the continent.

History 368 is a lecture and seminar course that examines the history of the indigenous peoples of Canada prior to and at the moment of first contact with European peoples. In order to gain a full perspective of this critical time period in the Northern American history, students examine a variety of oral and written documents produced by First Nations, Métis, Aboriginal, and Inuit peoples as well as European explorers, traders and settlers.

Current Programs

During the 2022-2023 academic year, the Lac La Biche Canadian Friendship Centre will be attending the campus every Thursday, putting on programming and providing supports to all students. 

They will be working out of Room 204—Wanîskah.

A teaching tool by KAIROS to raise awareness and understanding of the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada.


A video for new staff about the history and origins of Portage College. This is a mandatory part of employee onboarding.

Learn about the tradition of the ribbon skirts, their role in traditional ceremonies, the role of women in Indigenous culture, and the connection to the teepee and to the circle. This one-and-a-half day workshop will cover basic sewing machine skills and you will learn to create your own ribbon skirt.

This two-day workshop provides an introduction to truth and reconciliation. The first day begins with The Blanket Exercise, a session designed to raise awareness of Indigenous history in Canada. The afternoon sessions lay the foundation for a commitment of working together through restorative practice training, providing the necessary tools to enter into healing conversations.

The focus on reconciliation through understanding the experiences of Indigenous Peoples is then expressed through art on the second day through the decoration of a paper moccasin. Participants are exposed to the many different styles of moccasins, beading, and adornments to represent different cultures, life events, and connections. Individuals are asked to reflect on their experience the previous day and incorporate this in their moccasin design.

The moccasin is the common thread throughout the workshop, utilized in both the Restorative Practice Training and The Blanket Exercise. When symbolically decorated on the second day, it provides an underlying theme of “walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins”.

This training program is intended to provide awareness and skill development for employees and students regarding the many diverse ethnic groups on a local, provincial, and national level. The training is a series of four courses:

  1. Diversity Awareness
  2. Workplace Diversity
  3. Diversity Leadership
  4. Aboriginal Awareness

Annual Indigenous Events

Some Indigenous events have pipe ceremonies. The passing of the pipe is a traditional ceremony that anyone can participate in.

Watch for events with pipe ceremonies on our Events page!

Portage College is committed to reconciliation and has chosen to observe National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. To give students, staff, and faculty the opportunity to learn more about the history and ongoing consequences of residential schools, classes are cancelled and employees receive the day off work.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On May 5 each year, we wear red to honour the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls and Two-Spirit People. Watch for events at our campuses to learn more about this initiative.

Each year, during Métis Week, we "Rock Your Mocs" at Portage College. Watch for ways to participate in this initiative at your campus.

The Honour Ceremony has been part of the Portage College Convocation tradition since 2003. It was first introduced as a special ceremony acknowledging our students for successful completion of their schooling.

The Honour Ceremony is open to all graduands and their guests.

Every year in November, we celebrate Métis Week. This week-long event happens every year to commemorate the death of Métis leader Louis Riel and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Métis people.

Watch for event details and ways to participate at your campus!

Portage College has hosted an annual Round Dance for many years. The event usually consists of 300 or more people gathering in the evening for Cree drumming, singing, a pipe ceremony, and a feast.

“The College recognizes the cultural significance of smudging and views it as an important support to student mental health needs,” said Nancy Broadbent, President and CEO of Portage College.

Currently, Wanîskah is the space for smudging at the Lac La Biche campus. Please check with Student Services for smudging at other campuses.

“It is important to remember and honour those who never returned home after attending residential school and to the survivors and their families who carry the burden of this painful part of our shared history,” said Nancy Broadbent, President and CEO of Portage College. “We are thankful to have the opportunity to give our students and colleagues this day to participate in activities to honour those affected and reflect on their own commitments to truth and reconciliation.”

Watch for details regarding the Sunrise Ceremony to be held on September 30.

Other Initiatives

Workshops are intended to offer a unique opportunity to experience Indigenous culture while learning the skills used to create a variety of projects. Watch for more information about upcoming events.

Guided tours are also offered for schools, community groups, general public, and local, provincial, national, and international visitors.

The President’s Indigenous Advisory Committee is established under the authority of the President and CEO. The Committee’s function is to advise the President and CEO on the College’s history of indigenization, its current activities relative to indigenization, and possible further indigenization activities. The Committee supports the President and CEO in charting organizational outcomes proofing the targeted level of indigenization at Portage College. While advisory is its core function, the Committee undertakes investigative work and proposes strategic activities that would be authorized by the College community through the leadership of its President and CEO.

Portage College offers Public Legal Education conferences, community gatherings/forums, seminars, and workshops to citizens in northeastern Alberta. This includes specialized programming with First Nations and Métis Settlement partners.

Public Legal Education Program

Past Initiatives

In 2017, every Tuesday and Thursday, the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre was onsite at the Lac La Biche campus. They offered their services to staff and students, bettering the community through an array of culturally sensitive programs, services, and businesses for all walks of life. 

Restorative conferences are structured meetings that bring together those affected by an incident of harm or conflict to discuss how they've been affected and to determine how to repair the harm.

Portage College is supporting the growth and application of Restorative Practices:

  • in response to academic and non-academic misconduct.
  • in its efforts to continue to grow a healthy community.
  • to actively work toward outcomes reflected in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action (CIP, p. 48).
  • to continue to encourage institutional-wide social responsibility.
We acknowledge that Portage College’s service region is on the traditional lands of First Nation Peoples, the owners of Treaty 6, 8 and 10, which are also homelands to the Métis people. We honour the history and culture of all people who first lived and gathered in these lands.
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