2 Manitoba First Nations women win awards for academic trailblazing

By | September 29, 2020

Two Indigenous women have been selected to receive scholarships to help them continue their education in fields that strive to preserve Indigenous culture, traditions, and language.

Tammy Wolfe, of Norway House Cree Nation and Sarah DeLaronde from Treaty Five territory in The Pas, Man., will each receive $2000 from the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba (FNHSSM).

“I’m just very grateful to have that acknowledgement and to have somebody believe in my pursuit of my education,” said Wolfe, who was awarded the William Easter- Okimawisip First Nations, Culture & Language Scholarship.

DeLaronde, 27, was selected for the Henry Skywater Cultural Memorial Scholarship. 

“Ultimately, I’m pursuing my master’s degree to show my children that they can do anything with a little hard work,” said DeLaronde, who is enrolled in the Master’s in Development Practice: Indigenous Development program.

“When you have a strong foundation based in ceremony and tradition, you can do anything.”

The scholarships were established in 2018 by FNHSSM to carry on the legacy of Henry Skywater and William Easter. Both were Knowledge Keepers who worked to preserve First Nations culture, traditions, language and ways of life.

“Henry and William did so much in this area, it’s ensuring that their legacy carries on,” said Carla Cochrane, with FNHSSM.

“[The scholarship is meant] to honour the work that people are doing with culture, with First Nations people, with connection to language,” she said.

The two women were chosen this week from a handful of applicants who applied over the summer.

Wolfe, a 4th year graduate student in the Masters of Arts and Indigenous Governance program at the University of Winnipeg, is studying the effects of colonialism on Indigenous women in Canada with a focus on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirited people.

“I am personally affected by the issue, I lost my mother when I was 18 years old,” said Wolfe, who is now 36.

Wolfe hopes to one day get her PhD and perhaps one day become a professor. She hopes to inspire a love of education in others because she didn’t always have that motivation when she was growing up.

“I was a high school drop-out,” she said.

“Being a youth in care, I had dropped out numerous, numerous times. With no adult supervision it was kind of like there was nobody motivating me to go to school.”

Sarah DeLaronde, 27, said traditional knowledge is foundational to her program. Her own ceremonial practice complements her learnings and her children inspire it. (Submitted by Sandra DeLaronde)

 

DeLaronde, who’s in her first year of her master’s program, said the foundation it is based in traditional knowledge. She said a class by one of her teachers, Elder Dan Thomas, focuses on Indigenous knowledge and ceremony, allowing her to combine her own connection to ceremony with a Western worldview in order to one day best give back to her community, friends and family.

This past year has been hard, she added, but the award is meaningful.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to always be thankful, and to always be grateful for everything, even the hard things. And to always work hard…For me, especially, it’s being able to give that to my children and show them things that I’ve done just for them. It gives me a lot more motivation to do everything in my life.”

Wolfe said the scholarship will help take away some of the financial stress of being a student but it also drives her to keep pursuing her passion for education.

“It’s always nice to kind of get that acknowledgement from others. I’m the first person in my family to attend post-secondary,” she said.

“When I win an award, [I feel] ‘you believe in me, you believe that I can be successful’.”

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