“I feel much more liberated both as a woman and as a native individual. I hope to show my people and, most importantly, my children and nieces and nephew, the importance of being educated and the rewards it brings, so that they too will pursue their post-secondary education. Personally, many more doors have opened for me.… I feel much more capable and confident moving forward in life.”
- Jamie Springchief, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Athabasca University
Terese Robertson is passionate about becoming a nurse. It’s a profession she believes will offer many diverse employment opportunities and will enable her to help people in need. She wants to be an advocate for Aboriginal people and help guide them through the health-care system so they are able to obtain the care they need; To support patients in their efforts to “better their mind, body and spirit.”
Born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Terese grew up in Saskatoon and on the James Smith First Nation. Her mother, a licensed practical nurse herself, inspired her to attend university and become a health sciences student. Terese, the single parent of two sons of her own, wants to be a role model for her children and show them that “education is one’s freedom.” She encourages all students to pursue their dreams and to never give up, even if there are struggles along the way.
-Terese Robertson, Nursing student, University of Saskatchewan
“My postsecondary education, as well as my career as a teacher, has been enhanced greatly by the work and evolvement I did at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Aboriginal Gathering Place. It was a wonderful resource centre where Aboriginal cultures were celebrated and resources were available. I worked there as a tutor for over two years. Part of my job was to attend career conferences for Aboriginal youth in the lower mainland and promote (postsecondary) education. My experiences taught me a lot about the value of education and the rewards of having a resource like Kwantlen’s Aboriginal Gathering Place not only for Aboriginal students but also the general population.
I feel that my postsecondary education, and my public school education have encouraged me to be a more aware and compassionate person. I have also learned the impact a lack of education can have, and therefore, in my own classroom I promote cultural compassion and empathy. I also did a mini unit on Aboriginal storytelling with my 2/3 class in the fall which [the students] thoroughly enjoyed. I hope that by teaching them a bit about First Nations culture they will become inspired to learn more and in turn become better-educated young people.”
— Jessica Ounsted, 2011 graduate, Bachelor of Arts Degree: English Major, Anthropology Minor, Kwantlen University.
“The U of S is close to my home, family and friends. I appreciate the value of their physics programs as my undergrad major in astronomy was a large focus of my studies. I eventually entered the world of education and began a journey to understand social justice issues related to conditions affecting Aboriginal people and the spaces they inhabit in education.
-Shane Henry, Masters in Education student, University of Saskatchewan
In addition to earning two degrees from the University of Saskatchewan – a Bachelor of Education degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Native Studies – Kendal Netmaker has launched a successful clothing line called Neechie Gear (“Neechie” is a slang form of “my friend” in the Plains Cree language). He has also started NG Athletics Club Inc., a non-profit organization that focuses on youth sports.
Kendal’s efforts have been recognized with numerous awards and honours: he placed first in the 2010 Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge and third in the 2011 W. Brett Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence i3 Idea Challenge. Also in 2011, he was chosen as one of 30 entrepreneurs to make up Team Canada at the G20 Young Entrepreneur Summit in Nice, France.
Kendal, who is originally from Sweetgrass First Nation, recognizes the importance of getting an education. The skills he learned are proving to be beneficial in his role as a business owner, and he has many positive memories of his time at university, such as “making many friends, learning many life lessons and realizing that entrepreneurship is for me!”
-Kendal Netmaker, Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies, University of Saskatchewan
“Learning Communities helped me and other people stay in a program and complete it! It was amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also felt good to be involved in others’ successes because of the Learning Communities support network and help our network of learners to be confident in what they were doing online. I have strengthened my self-confidence, and upon receiving my certification, I got a job as an early childhood educator in the preschool program in High Prairie. I am so excited!”
— Shelley Gauchier, Learning Communities Learner and Mentor at the Peavine Métis Settlement, Athabasca University
“I never had the means to go to school, so this bursary [from the University of Winnipeg’s Opportunity Fund] has really made the difference by covering my tuition and books. I would like to make a difference in the community working with youth who need help, because I’ve seen lots of need firsthand growing up.”
-Kyle Daniels, student in the University of Winnipeg’s Urban and Inner-City Studies program.
Joe Waskewitch and Destini Gardypie
Joe Waskewitch, of Onion Lake Cree Nation, and Destini Gardypie, of Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation, are in the process of changing their lives. Both are enrolled in the Indian Teacher Education Program offered through the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education.
After working for 22 years in the area of school maintenance, Joe decided to launch a new career and entered the program where he now majors in Industrial Arts. Destini is a former educational assistant now majoring in Native Studies. The pair acknowledges the support of the ITEP staff throughout their studies. Says Destini: “I truly enjoy the ITEP program. It is definitely a positive challenge and very rewarding.”
Joe Waskewitch and Destini Gardypie, Education students, University of Saskatchewan
“Having the Aboriginal Students’ Centre and the Aboriginal Student Achievement Office are pivotal in the development of the Aboriginal students attending [the University of Saskatchewan]. Academia is sustenance for the soul in a sense that it is a fulfillment for a person who genuinely desires to be learned. Aside from the education, having the Aboriginal Students’ Centre and the Aboriginal Student Achievement Office are pivotal in the development of the Aboriginal students attending here. Having that sense of community is so comforting and appreciated by them because they receive what is needed and wanted, by the tremendous staff facilitating them. They know what it is like to be where we are. They made the path here more easy, just as the others before them made it a bit more inviting.”
Xavier Fischer, Political Studies student, University of Saskatchewan
“Turtle Island at the University of Windsor provides a sense of community. The staff provides us with a sense of home and allows us to share our knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, too often the cultural component is missing within the classroom context. Turtle Island acknowledges indigenous students in a way that allows a deeper cultural connection in an unfamiliar environment − an urban setting where Aboriginal students are too few in number. I am so grateful for the family-like connections I have established, for classmates and peers, for the great atmosphere where I meet people that are like my aunties, uncles, and cousins. Turtle Island is the support I need to complete my graduate program. For all the support, I say Miigwetch! (Thank you!).”
Andrea Landry – Candidate, M.A. Social Justice, University of Windsor.
“My goal is to return to my home community and hopefully, create a community centre for youth.”
Angel Compton, student in the Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Studies, was awarded a University of Winnipeg Scholarship in honour of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
“My MBA degree will enable me to provide strong, reliable leadership for my nation…I attribute the success of our community to the knowledge I’ve gained at Athabasca University and the leadership skills I’ve acquired over the years. It has opened my mind for creative thinking and knowing that anything can be done with the right planning and education. It has opened up the world and the ability to recognize that which is in the best interest of my community… I am grateful for all the support I received along the way. Meeqwetch!”
Deborah Chief, MBA (2010), the first female chief elected in her community, the first woman from the community to earn a master’s degree and the first chief in Manitoba to hold an MBA. Read full story
“When I first got here, I didn’t easily identify with the rest of the student body, but I adapted to the university environment by focusing my work, whenever possible, on aboriginal issues. I strived to promote my culture and my identity through my research as well as in my student life. In 2010, I took a course on the history of the First Nations in Quebec and in Canada and I met people who were interested in Native issues. The following year, I founded a student association called L’Amicale Autochtone de l’UQO to build bridges between the different cultures represented at UQO. The AA-UQO was created to reach aboriginals, Métis, Inuit, and Indigenous people from South America and around the globe. Aboriginals include not only members of the 11 First Nations in Quebec, but also indigenous peoples throughout the world.
On March 26, 2012, AA-UQO held UQO’s first-ever Aboriginal History Day. It was also the first day of the general student strike. We went ahead with the event anyway, and it turned out to be a real success, with more than 50 people talking part. We also officially announced the appointment of the Canada Research Chair in aboriginal land governance. I’d like to thank the UQO for providing me with a forum where I could exercise constructive leadership and actively participate in student life. I hope that, by doing so, I will have left an indelible mark on the school’s history and that I will have given future generations of aboriginal students an association that understands their culture and promotes communication between the various indigenous student populations at UQO.”
Gaétan Lefebvre, undergraduate student in the faculty of Business Administration at Université du Québec en Outaouais
“The courses in the Aboriginal Visual Culture Minor totally and dramatically changed my life. … As if one layer of the fog seemed to clear and I started to see things and understand things in a way I should have been seeing them all along. Having the knowledge helped me see and realize what it means to be able to make art that has a purpose.
You always hear about yourself and your heritage as distant and removed, looked at through an impersonal academic lens, detached from your self. The program brought my ancestors back to me and made a real connection. It seemed like the torn fabric was brought back together again. It mended the blanket.”
— Alexandre Nahdee, fourth-year Drawing & Painting student taking OCAD University’s Aboriginal Visual Culture Minor.
“The underrepresentation of Aboriginal people in public health and natural sciences has ignited my passion for studying in this field. I came to the University of Saskatchewan out of convenience, but I am glad I did. This university offers Aboriginal-specific support… In that vein, one of my fondest memories at the U of S was celebrating Aboriginal Achievement Week with my fellow students. I am currently the Vice-President of Finance and Operations for the Indigenous Students’ Council (ISC). My participation with the ISC also includes my involvement with the council’s sub-committees such as culture, social and financial.”
Tanis Worme, Biology student, University of Saskatchewan
“Hand drumming allowed me to express who I am with pride. I wanted to share my positive experience with others. Through the creation of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Aboriginal Hand Drum Circle, I witnessed the positive impacts this circle has had on students. It has provided a safe place for sharing and connecting. It has also helped some students build confidence and a proud sense of identity.”
– Lisa Monchalin, Criminology instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University. First Aboriginal woman in Canada to earn a PhD in Criminology.
“In 2010, my husband and I decided that the time was right for me to go back to school and get my bachelor’s degree. UQAT offered a variety of certificates in Management, and three certificates can earn you a bachelor’s degree. The university is situated in Val-d’Or, a city that is centrally located for the various Cree communities. There are a number of extracurricular activities available for children, including hockey, music and more. It was important for us to make the transition as smooth as possible for every member of our family, and we managed to do just that!”
Rachel Etapp, Management student and member of the Cree tribe, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
“Having an environment that’s supportive and encouraging is really key. I don’t think I would have ever been able to do this year if I didn’t do [Simon Fraser University’s Continuing Studies eight-month Aboriginal pre-health bridging program]. It’s just such a different world.”
Jessica Humchitt, second year student in health science at Simon Fraser University
“My graduate work has given me a sense of belonging and an understanding of the role I can play as a leader, mentor and representative of my community. The support and encouragement I got through this program allowed me to move forward as an academic and contributor to this field.”
Donna Lester-Smith, PhD in education, University of British Columbia. Her research focused on healing the wounds of family violence with Indigenous traditional holistic practices.
Yvonne Poitras Pratt
“Having a place like the Native Centre on campus was not only vital but pivotal to my success. It represented a place where I could ground and reaffirm myself as an Aboriginal, and my journey would not have been as rich without it”
Yvonne Poitras Pratt, PhD in communication studies, University of Calgary
Mr. Frankie Cote
“To sum up my education experience, I draw upon a teaching of the Anishinabeg, ‘look to your sons and daughters, for they are your future.’ My family knows that I have done this for them, for education is the passport to the future, and education is the bootstrap First Nations communities must use to improve their social and economic conditions. Thus, I say I have done this for my children, so they can have a brighter future.”
Frankie Cote, an Anishinabeg from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg of the Algonquin Nation. 2012 graduate from Common Law, University of Ottawa
“Volunteering at the diversity centre is really important to me because I’d like to see our Aboriginal culture become more prominent on campus. I’d also like to help promote the opportunities available at the Centre. ”
Jenna Marr, first-year student in public relations, Mount Saint Vincent University