The University of Winnipeg



Former boxer awarded the White Thunderbird Man bursary

Crystal Brown

Crystal Brown

WINNIPEG, MB Former amateur boxer Crystal Brown decided to go to university after experiencing a serious concussion while practicing her favourite sport in 2010. Now a third-year student in the Indigenous Studies program at The University of Winnipeg, Brown is the 2013 recipient of the Waapshki Pinaysee Inini White Thunderbird Man bursary. The bursary is valued at $2,000 annually and is awarded to a full-time* Sagkeeng First Nation student pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies. This award is part of the Opportunity Fund, a UWinnipeg initiative that helps ensure economic circumstances are not a barrier to higher education and opportunities.

Brown originally wanted to major in Kinesiology, until she took an introductory class taught by Dr. Julie Pelletier, Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies in UWinnipeg’s Faculty of Arts. “Dr. Pelletier’s teachings opened my eyes to Indigenous concepts, governance, and policy. I learned how the plight of Indigenous people is similar across the country and around the world,” said Brown.

Brown plans to pursue a law degree after she completes her bachelor of arts at UWinnipeg with a particular interest in Indigenous issues. She intends to focus on treaty rights and hopes to help improve government policies with regard to Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Pelletier was pleased to learn that her pupil has been awarded the White Thunderbird Man bursary: “Crystal is a student whose path to university and plans for graduate school has been a winding one filled with a range of experiences which shape her work ethic, determination, intellect, and empathy. The sky is the limit for her future and her contributions will certainly benefit Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”

The Waapshki Pinaysee Inini Bursary, first awarded in 2011, was created by UWinnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lloyd Axworthy and his wife Denise Ommanney. They donated funds to establish the bursary in recognition of the day in July 2010 when Dr. Axworthy became an honourary member of Sagkeeng First Nation and was given the name Waapshki Pinaysee Inini.

“I want to congratulate Crystal and celebrate and acknowledge her perseverance,” expressed Chief Donavan Fontaine, Sagkeeng First Nation. “Her choice to pursue higher education came when one career path was hindered with a barrier. The easy thing would’ve been to throw in the towel. She is indeed a warrior in her own right and will inevitably make the world a better place. This award is also exemplary of good “investment in education” by good people. I am sincerely thankful for Dr. Axworthy and his wife. Miigwetch**!”

The University of Winnipeg continues to partner with Sagkeeng First Nation and other Indigenous communities across the province to ensure that post-secondary education is accessible to all regardless of economic circumstances.

Find out more about Community Learning and Indigenous Scholarship at UWinnipeg. Learn more about UWinnipeg is helping youth dream big at

* If there are no eligible full-time students who apply, then a $1,000 bursary will be available to a part-time student.

**Miigwetch is thank you in the Ojibwe language

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