Who we are!

'su' luqw 'a' Community Cousins are Indigenous students attending Vancouver Island University. As mentors, the cousins work together as a team and put our ideas together to bring events and programs to the Indigenous student community! 'su'luqw'a' are passionate about health, wellness and culture. We join the program with intentions to support Indigenous students, create a sense of belonging, take part in skill building workshops, and to have fun!

Shanyaa Assu

Shanyaa Assu

"Yo! My name is Shanyaa Assu, I’m from the We Wai Kai nation. The village I was raised in on Quadra Island is called Cape Mudge. I am wewaikai, lekwiltok, and kwakwakawakw. My father is Brad Assu and my mother is Leah. My grandparents are Louisa and the late Chief Donald Assu. My gran is from Alert Bay/Village Island and she is a Sewid. My grandma Louisa’s mother, Flora, was an Alfred. And her mother, Axu (Agnes) Alfred, was a Cranmer. My two great grandfathers were Chief James Sewid and Chief Harry Assu. My great great grandpa was Chief Billy Assu. I’m incredibly proud of where I come from and who I come from, and I’m grateful for this space and opportunity to connect with other Bakwams while attending university. I’m taking my Bachelors degree for creative writing and I should be graduating June 2024. I like playing Animal Crossing in my free time. I have two dachshunds who I adopted with my long term partner Lyle. I’m a home body and a little shy when you first meet me but I swear I’ll open up!"

Natalie Johnson

“My Grandmother (Yeye7) would say to me, take with you both our culture and education, & keep moving forward. This is what I have found with the Community Cousins (‘Su’lu’qwa). I am the Granddaughter of late Elsie Johnson and daughter of Noel Johnson from Alkali Lake (Esketemc First Nation). I recently received an Indian name and it is Qw̓ixqw̓íxqw smúlhats Mixalh and it means Black Bear Women. I got it when I went to a family gathering in Lillooet.

I decided to make a change in my life, I applied and was accepted into the Child and Youth Care Program at VIU. My education journey has been full of growing pains with many ups and downs. While I’ve been here I’ve been able to explore different opportunities. These new opportunities helped me to enhance professionalism towards a successful career.

I never knew how strong I was, until being strong was the only choice I had. I thank my children and Fiancé for their encouragement and support; as I continue to persevere towards a healthier lifestyle. I’d like to thank my parents for showing me a way through education.”

Sara Fulla

"I was born and raised in Alert Bay, BC. I come from the Namgis First Nations, which is a tribe within the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations territory. I am in the Recreation and Sport Management diploma program and will continue my education to achieve a Bachelor of Tourism Management, majoring in Recreation. I would like to pursue a minor in First Nations studies.

My goal as a Community Cousin is to provide Aboriginal students on campus with guidance and support. It is important to create a welcoming atmosphere for those who are still transitioning and bridging into University."

Patrick Aleck (Xwaluputhut)

"I am Xwaluputhut   I am proud to be from  Stzmin’us  First Nation and Penelakut Island. My objective as a young indigenous man is to be a voice and to make a difference in the community. In the near future I plan to move mountains at Vancouver Island University and take courses that will build my skills in working with others and helping others. My first goal is Arts One: First Nation studies to learn the history of what happened with in Indigenous communities. I would also like to take a community support program to learn skills in working with others."

Ryan Van-Haastert

"I am of Cree ancestry and from Saskatchewan. I am in the Bachelor of Arts in First Nations Studies program and have received a Social Work Diploma from Vancouver Island University. I will be continuing my studies and applying to the Masters in Community Planning Program. I am a father of two boys and enjoy spending time outdoors. My journey at the beginning was challenging as I was switching from a trades program to an academic program. What helped me during this time was the support that I received. Through education I have been able to find my identity."

Betty Knighton

My name is daaqwyii (sunshine) aka Betty Knighton. I am registered with Ditidaht First Nation, and have family ties to Alert Bay (Mountain Family), Tseshaht First Nation (Watts Family), and Duncan Tribe (Modest Family).

I started attending VIU in the EXPO program (exploratory studies) with the intentions of registering in the Bachelor of Business Program, Accounting Major. I completed my first year of business (30 credits = Certificate), and decided the business program was not for me. By socializing with numerous students and hearing about programs I decided to enroll in the Child & Youth Care program (CYC).

My home life consists of raising two children (8 and 4) and having meaningful conversations with my roommate who is also attending university. I enjoy socializing and can always be found at the Shq’apthut – A Gathering Place: Services for Aboriginal Students Centre (Building 170).

The 'Su' luqw 'a' Community Cousins Aboriginal Mentorship Program has provided training, supports, and numerous opportunites to be out in the community. I enjoy all the opportunities that this program has to be of service to strengthen our communities."

Alison Piell

"I am of Métis ancestry and my family’s roots are in Regina, Saskatchewan. I grew up on Vancouver Island in the Comox Valley and moved to Nanaimo to attend the BBA program at VIU. Although I love my undergraduate program, moving to a new city came with its share of obstacles. The cousins program provided me with a sense of warmth and belonging in an otherwise lonely time. University has taught me to take initiative, seek opportunity and think critically. It is my goal to greet each day here with an open mind, a sense of excitement and a grateful heart."

Sheena Robinson

"My name is Sheena Robinson and I came to VIU after a six year hiatus from my post-secondary education. My goal is to complete a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in First Nations Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. I am a Heiltsuk woman from Bella Bella, BC though I was raised in the urban setting of Vancouver. I also lived in Bella Coola for three years and the Gulf Islands for a little under a year before coming to Nanaimo. I am thankful to the Snuneymuxw Nation for allowing us to live, laugh, love, and learn on their territory. It is my hope as a mentor that I will provide guidance and support for Aboriginal students as they proceed on their own educational journeys. I had previously dropped out of college because I didn’t feel I had much community support at my school, so my goal is to show anyone feeling this way that there is a strong support network for them here at VIU."

Sheldon Scow

"I am of Dene / Kwak-kwak-wka descent. I am in the Bachelor of Arts in First Nations Studies program and have been involved in 'Su'luqw'a' since 2015. The program provides me with a supportive community I've never experienced before."

Charlotte Nelson-King

"Nts lha Mukusmakana wiclhh wa tcamatlhts alh Nuxalk, Nuxalkmcts. Tic ta staltmc Lhalyam ti mants, Heathet King its'ik tsi stants."

"My name is mukusmakana, I am nuxalk, I am the daughter of Charles Nelson and Heather King."

Buster Bell

"It has been a long Journey, but it has been worth it. I am here working on my my degree, continue my education, and being the best possible role model for my son. I have been raised in a traditional sense, by my Nonnie. I have learned a lot from her, she was a great role model in my life."

Evangeline Clifton

"My name is Evangeline Clifton, my traditional name is Hayałilaǧa ("Setting things straight"), and I am a member of the Heiltsuk Nation. My family, my Husband and our five amazing kiddies, and I relocated here just over 3 years ago and to this day we know we made the right choice.

I'm a second year tourism student with a goal of achieving the Bachelor of Tourism Management Degree, I am also a recipient of VIU's Adventure Tourism and Recreation Certificate. Finding the balance between home, education, and work hasn't been the most attainable, but I have to say... becoming a Cousin has definitely contributed to making this path a lot more easier, I look forward to the next couple years here on campus.


Sara Daigle-Stevens

"My name is Sara Daigle-Stevens and my First Nation’s names are Yamu-Akith-Nuhu (spelt phonetically and means Smoking Star) and Kwik-Ga (which means Nobel Eagle Woman). I have two first nations’ names because one is maternal and the other paternal (go figure, eh?). I am part Kootenay (maternal), Kwaguilt (paternal), Haida Gwaii (paternal), French (paternal), English (maternal) and Hawaiian (paternal). I am thankful to the Snuneymuxw Nationfor allowing me to live, love, learn and laugh on their territory. I have a number of passions, and one of them being learning about my culture and history. I love and I am filled with so much gratitude that our university has such a strong cultural back ground. I am grateful for this university for the willingness to integrate indigenous principals, it is so cutting edge, and this is something we should be proud of as students and faculty."

Interested in becoming a Community Cousin mentor?

Complete the application!