As Louis Riel Day nears, The University of Winnipeg is proud to celebrate the achievements of 69 Métis students who were awarded Louis Riel Bursaries during the Fall Term of this academic year. Since 1999, the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) and its educational arm, the Louis Riel Institute (LRI), through funding from Employment and Social Development Canada, have provided more than $2 million in bursaries to Métis students attending UWinnipeg.
“The Manitoba Metis Federation is a great partner that generously supports Métis students at The University of Winnipeg. Together, we are extremely proud to celebrate student successes as they work towards realizing their dreams,” said Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor, UWinnipeg. “This year’s recipients will make important impacts in their chosen fields.”
Approximately 10 per cent of UWinnipeg students self-identify as Indigenous, and half of those students are Métis — among the highest participation rates across Canada.
Meet some of the extremely talented Louis Riel Bursary recipients:
Keauna Oliver-Hanna – Education and Biology
Juggling school work, a practicum, volunteering, and a job hasn’t been easy for Keauna Oliver-Hanna. Now in her sixth and final year, she’s just a few months away from graduating in the After-Degree Program and starting a career in education.
Thanks to the Louis Riel Bursary, which she received for the first time, her last term has been a lot easier on her mental health.
“Working and going to school can take a real big toll mentally on a person, so applying for these bursaries and having them available for Métis students is just fabulous,” Oliver-Hanna said. “It allows me to get my school work done, work limited hours, not worry about paying tuition, and still volunteer.”
And that volunteering includes coaching a girls’ hockey team at a school in her community, along with running a youth drop-in program every second Friday during the winters.
It was those opportunities that led to her passion to pursue education after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biology.
“Through volunteering and coaching, I knew education was something I really enjoyed doing,” she said.
With graduation now on the horizon, Oliver-Hanna has her sights set on teaching high school science.
Alyssa Thomas – Political Science
Alyssa Thomas is planning on completing her Bachelor of Arts in political science with no student debt, thanks to the Louis Riel Bursary.
Now in her fourth of five years at UWinnipeg, she’s been a bursary recipient every year.
“It’s pretty nice because it definitely takes the financial stress out of going to school,” Thomas explained. “I can primarily focus on school and also do volunteer work.”
That volunteer work has been with the MMF. Currently, Thomas is the Infinity Women Youth Representative on the MMF Provincial Youth Advisory Committee, and serves as a youth member on the Infinity Women board. She also holds a position on the MMF Southeast Regional Youth Advisory Committee.
Thomas credited UWinnipeg and the MMF for providing her and other Métis students with the opportunity to truly “excel in their studies” by offering this bursary.
With just a year left before graduation, Thomas has her sights on furthering her education: “I’m planning on attending law school, hopefully at the University of Manitoba.” Her dream career is to become a lawyer with a preferred practice in Indigenous law.
Ian Petrowski – Geography and Education
Deciding to pursue a university education eight years after graduating high school was like “looking at the top of Mount Everest from the very bottom,” according to Ian Petrowski. However, thanks to a Louis Riel Bursary received in the Fall Term, his mountain to climb doesn’t seem as high.
“When I got the word I was receiving the Louis Riel Bursary, it was exciting and very relieving,” Petrowski said. “The money removes part of the stress.”
He’s now into his fourth term at UWinnipeg, majoring in geography, minoring in mathematics, and getting a non-credit minor in French before entering the Faculty of Education.
The decision to return to school came after working in the construction industry for more than four years. Even though the money was good, Petrowski wasn’t passionate about the work and often spent significant time away from his family.
“I taught guitar lessons in my spare time, and the feeling of teaching was just something I’ve always found the most gratifying,” he said. “I grew up in a French Métis community, so I’d like to be a French high school teacher.”
By sharing his story, Petrowski hopes it inspires and highlights the importance of the Louis Riel Bursary.
Chanelle Lajoie – Urban and Inner-City Studies
Chanelle Lajoie is now a two-time recipient of the Louis Riel Bursary.
The Urban and Inner-City Studies major called the achievement an “incredible honour,” noting the hard work that goes into applying.
“It’s a real privilege to receive this bursary,” she said. “Financially, it’s afforded me the opportunity to take more classes, and it’s also offered reprieve on my professional endeavors. As someone who works hard, it’s nice to know I don’t have that financial pressure from school, and can better focus on my community work.”
But most importantly for Lajoie, receiving the bursary is an acknowledgement of her Métis identity and also a way to help her give back to the community when she graduates.
“My goal and my dream with pursuing academia is to exit with a stronger foundation in how I can pursue Métis Food Sovereignty,” she explained. “So the bursary supports me in what I’m undertaking at UWinnipeg and that will benefit the community long term, so we’re equally benefiting.”
As her time at UWinnipeg nears an end, Lajoie plans on taking a little bit of time off for herself before pursuing a master’s degree, with the dream of doing social work and focusing on Indigenous Food Sovereignty.”
Aaron Catellier – Community-based Aboriginal Teacher Education Program
Aaron Catellier is in the second year of the Community-based Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (CATEP), majoring in English and minoring in history.
With two children, a house, and mortgage to look after while attending UWinnipeg, he said receiving the Louis Riel Bursary for the first time has been a big help.
“When you’re paying for extra childcare on school evenings or sometimes you don’t have the time to cook, those are the times when the extra little bit (of money) really helps,” he said. “And from a technology standpoint, it was that extra money that allowed me to get an iPad to take my notes, so now I’m electronic and not pen and paper.”
While returning back to school after many years away was a bit scary, Catellier said his time in CATEP has been nothing but great.
After he graduates, his dream is to be a Grade 7 or 8 arts teacher. However, he’s worked in programs ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12, so he has a good grasp of what happens at each grade level.
The Louis Riel Bursary is available to Métis students attending participating Manitoba universities. Students are eligible to apply for this award every year they are at UWinnipeg.