As we approach Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, The University of Winnipeg is proud to celebrate the achievements of 80 Métis students who have received Louis Riel bursaries for this academic year. Since 1999, the Manitoba Metis Federation and its education arm, the Louis Riel Institute, through funding from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), have provided $2.3 million in bursaries to Métis students attending UWinnipeg. That amount almost doubles to $ 4.4 million as a result of gifts from the Manitoba Scholarships and Bursaries Initiative matching program. This has provided bursaries to 685 talented Métis students, like one of this year’s recipient, Danielle Nowosad (student profiles below).
“For 19 years, the Manitoba Metis Federation has partnered with UWinnipeg to provide educational bursaries and scholarships to Métis youth,” said MMF President David Chartrand. “We know these opportunities help students realize their educational and professional dreams. We are grateful for this partnership and for the positive impact it has had and will continue to have on our Métis Nation.”
Approximately 13% of incoming students at UWinnipeg self-identify as Indigenous, and half of those students are Métis, among the highest participation rates across Canada. Last September, UWinnipeg became one of the first universities in Canada to introduce a mandatory Indigenous course requirement for all undergraduate students.
Last month, UWinnipeg and the Manitoba Metis Federation further strengthened their collaboration, signing a Memorandum of Understanding that brings an additional $600,000 to campus to support Métis scholarship over the next decade.
“UWinnipeg has a strong commitment to strengthening Indigenous scholarship and the partnership and support from the MMF is invaluable,” said Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor, UWinnipeg. “Our students receiving these bursaries come from every discipline, from the arts and science to business, education and kinesiology. They are the future leaders in our community.”
Meet some of the 2017-2018 recipients of the Louis Riel bursaries
Danielle Nowosad – Science
Last summer, Danielle went north, way north, to work as a research technician at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. She calls her time there “inspiring” and it has ignited her desire to pursue a research career in hydrology and soil science in the Arctic and sub-Arctic.
The 23 year-old, who is doing an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in physical geography, has also embarked on a phase of discovery about her identity. Raised in Headingley, she was not aware of her Métis heritage until recently, when her cousin traced the family roots and then her mother took up the genealogy puzzle.
“What I have discovered recently is that I am related to a famous British cartographer, Peter Fiddler, who worked around Hudson’s Bay and married a woman who was Swampy Cree. That was my fifth-time great grandfather. They had lots of kids and one branch of our family settled in in St. James in the 1850s,” says Danielle.
She has documented her unique Métis family story, which will be published this spring in Crossings, an interdisciplinary student journal in the Humanities and Social Sciences at UWinnipeg.
Danielle has received a $3,500 Louis Riel bursary for this academic year, in addition to $2,500 last year. “This really helps me, it means I am not eating noodles every night,” she laughs. “In the past I had three jobs plus school. Now I have just one job and can focus more on my studies and projects within my department.”
Jessica Wiebe – Science
Jessica Wiebe is fascinated with an emerging field of science – – biopsychology. Biopsychology is a sub-discipline of neuroscience that focuses on how the brain and nervous system regulate behaviour.
“I have had exposure to bipolar disorder in my family and that sparked my interest to learn more about what is actually going on,” says Jessica, who will graduate this June. Her current research explores the hatred of sound, known as “misophonia”. Her career goal is to pursue a medical degree and become a psychiatrist.
Jessica says receiving a Louis Riel bursary makes all the difference. “I can study instead of stressing out. I am the first generation to go to university and the financial help is really needed.”
She has previously received assistance with the Winnipeg Police Service Opportunity Fund Scholarship in Memory of Injured and Fallen Officers for her dedicated volunteer work.
Cameron McKenzie-Roche – Arts and Education
Cameron is doing a joint Bachelor of Arts (History) and Bachelor of Education in the Access Education Program with a goal of teaching history and social sciences. He calls himself a “late bloomer” because he took university classes in 2011 but left to work full-time.
“It took me a while to realize what I really wanted to do with my life,” says the 30-year old. When Cameron was growing up, he was only vaguely aware of his heritage. “My mother is First Nations and my father Metis but it was only when I was 19 years old that our family traced our roots through a genealogist.”
Cameron says that receiving the Louis Riel Bursary “helps out amazingly. I can eat and pay my bills, it means I can focus more on my school work.”
He says his identity will make him a better teacher. “We are learning things in school now that I never knew in terms of Indigenous history. When I was young Metis and Indigenous people were not portrayed positively. We did not have the whole story. That is part of what motivates me to be a teacher now.”
Marika Schalla – Science and Education
Markia just completed her Bachelor of Science and is now getting her Bachelor of Education so that she can fulfil her dream of becoming a high school science teacher, preferably in a rural or northern Manitoba community.
She and her husband are also juggling family responsibilities as they raise their six-year old son. Becoming parents while they were still high school teenagers was challenging, but they were both determined to graduate and succeed.
“My husband was taking university classes in conflict resolution but now he is working to support us. He’ll go back to classes once I graduate,” says the 23-year old. “Receiving the Louis Riel Bursary is huge for us, as a young, low-income family, this really helps to pay for my tuition.”
Markia grew up in Winnipeg’s North End with a Métis mother and a father who was an immigrant from Hungary. “I always knew I was Métis and I am very passionate about my heritage and culture. As a teacher I want to make sure Aboriginal perspectives and what I have learned from my mother and grandmother are part of my classroom.”
Marika feels lucky to have found her passion as an educator. “Resiliency has played a huge part of my life. There can be many hardships that come with being a young Aboriginal woman,” she says. “However, I keep bouncing back stronger. The Louis Riel Bursary has helped me in this way because it gives me the motivation to keep on going.”
She also just received a scholarship from the City of Winnipeg called the Oshki Annishinabe Nigaaniwak Post-Secondary Scholarship, from the Cities Indigenous Youth Strategy.
Megan Lindell – Arts and Business
Megan’s appetite for knowledge has led her to pursue two degrees concurrently: she is working on a Bachelor of Business Administration with a minor in Indigenous Studies as well as a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on the environment and geography.
“I was in Churchill this past summer and I just love cold, secluded places. My goal is to be doing field research in renewable energy in a place like Churchill,” says Megan.
Growing up in Eriksdale near Lake Manitoba, Megan says everyone she knew was “either Métis or Icelandic. There were many Métis events in our community, it was just part of regular life.” As she entered university she realized how proud she is of her heritage and now serves on the Aboriginal Student Council.
When she received news that she was getting a $2,500 Louis Riel bursary, “I just cried. I am putting myself through school so it really takes a weight off my shoulders. I cannot wait to give back someday. Getting the bursary is an amazing feeling that I want to give to someone else.”
Michael Benjamin – Education
When Michael was growing up, He kept finding reasons not to go to school, because he did not feel connected to what he was learning. He says he was in Grade 8 when a resource teacher had a big influence on him and changed his mind about getting a good education.
“I would not have made it through school without her, and it has motivated me now to become a school counsellor,” says Michael. “I want to do the same thing for students who might be struggling, so they know they can go further.”
Michael says his Métis background was something not talked about in the family until recently when he found out that he may have a Métis background and started to ask questions to his grandma (mémère). His father was very interested in finding out about his Métis background and began exploring his family tree in the 90’s but was unable to finish because he passed away at a young age. Michael picked up from where his father left off and completed the process with the Manitoba Metis Federation.
He was eating a sandwich when he got an email stating he was receiving a $3,000 Louis Riel bursary. “I was in shock. I honestly could not believe it. I dropped my sandwich!” Michael works full time during the summer but says the financial help means he can focus on studying during the winter months.
Samantha Schwabe – Education
Raising a teenaged son and daughter is one of Samantha’s inspirations for returning to school. “They are so proud of me. I want to encourage them by example,” she says.
Samantha is in her second year studying to become a teacher through the Access Education program. “It is amazing. I thought I would face more barriers, but I feel really supported here.”
Her Métis heritage is something that was not talked about when she was growing up. Just a few years ago her grandmother shared that she grew up in Rooster Town (a community that was razed in the late 1950s to make way for the Grant Park shopping centre). Now Samantha and her family are exploring their family tree.
“My goal is to bring that heritage into the classroom and break down stereotypes as an educator,” says Samantha. She would like to teach adults, and possibly those who are incarcerated.
She says the Louis Riel bursary helps her and her family. “We live outside the city and I have to drive in every day so the financial help makes quite a difference.”
Richelle Baker – Arts
Richelle will graduate this June with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, with plans to pursue a Master’s degree in social work. Growing up in Cranberry Portage within Treaty 5 Territory, with a Cree and Métis heritage, Richelle says being Indigenous was always part of their identity.
Familiar with poverty and oppression, Richelle strives to use their potential and privilege to help others who are marginalized, “I am a first-generation university student, one of many who learn things the hard way and often jump through hoops,” they say. “My resilience has guided me through personal growth and healing from intergenerational trauma…many other students with similar backgrounds share this journey.”
Being a three-time award winner of the Louis Riel bursary, they say, is about much more than financial help. “This award enhances the quality of living for Métis students, I am very grateful and honoured the Louis Riel Institute believes in my potential and supports me to continue moving forward. I don’t think I would have made it this far without that support and therefore attribute much of my progress to them.”
Richelle describes their university experience as incredibly transformative and remains strongly committed to supporting the community. Richelle has an abundance of experience volunteering, mentoring, and fundraising in Winnipeg’s inner city in a variety of roles. Richelle remains dedicated to using their skills and talents to create visibility and opportunities for marginalized groups.
Abbey Meadows – Science and Kinesiology
Abbey will graduate next year with a Bachelor of Science from the Faculty of Kinesiology, with a major in exercise science. She plans to use that background to pursue medical school and eventually practice in a rural or Northern community.
She was drawn to UWinnipeg “because of the unique degree but also I wanted to be in a smaller community. I immediately had friends here.”
Abbey only found out several years ago that she has a Métis heritage. “My grandparents did not really want to talk about it. It was my uncle who did all the research into our background.” Now Abbey says she and her family are embracing opportunities to learn more. “I was a youth delegate at the last Manitoba Métis Annual Assembly. It was a really great experience to meet others in the Métis community and learn about how I can get more involved.”
She says she is very grateful for the $2,500 assistance she received from the Louis Riel bursary. She has also been awarded several other UWinnipeg scholarships. ““I can work fewer hours outside of school and that allows me more time to focus on my studies.”
Abbey is also a volunteer with three years of experience at Misericordia Health Centre She especially likes working with the elderly. “They light up when I read or talk to them about their lives. It is a real joy.”
Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg
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