In light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Winnipeg meeting in June, the University of Winnipeg has announced a new scholarship addressing the needs of residential school survivors.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Scholarship will be awarded annually to one male and one female student. It provides the students with $5,000 toward their undergraduate degree.
“Dr. Axworthy and I spoke with residential school survivors,” said Jennifer Rattray, executive director of Government, Indigenous and Community Affairs at the U of W. “They indicated that education in a respectful, holistic way can create positive change for aboriginals. This encourages them to give back to their communities.”
Rattray attended the event and heard the needs of residential school survivors with Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, president & vice-chancellor of the U of W, after which he developed the scholarship.
“Our campus is located on Treaty One land, a treaty that promised educational opportunities for First Nations people,” Dr. Axworthy said in a press release about the scholarship. “That is a privilege and a responsibility the University of Winnipeg takes very seriously.”
“These scholarships are motivators for young aboriginals to do well and put their names forward. It’s an important gesture to make,” said James Wastasecoot, publisher of indigenous media outlet The Drum News.
Wastasecoot believes that support for aboriginal schooling is crucial to help alleviate some of the prevalent societal issues at play.
“If investments in First Nations education are not made now, there will be trouble ahead and problems will be harder to fix,” he said. “Especially in youth from reserves, who create issues in urban centers like Winnipeg and Regina.”
Eligible students should have a high school average of at least 75 per cent. Continuing education students should have a grade point average of at least 3.00.
Students need no documentation to prove their residential school ancestry.
“We don’t want to make applying difficult since so many records have been lost,” Rattray said.
“It’s impossible for somebody to have a class register list from their grandparents in 1930.”
The money that funds the U of W’s various indigenous programs comes from two university-run fundraising dinners, private sector donations and fundraising throughout the year.
Other indigenous services include the UWSA daycare, assigned housing in McFeetors Hall, Aboriginal Student Services Centre, The Model School in the Collegiate and The Opportunity Fund, which pays for the education of 155 students every year.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada aims to inform Canadians of the abuse and acculturation that occurred in residential schools from 1870 to 1996. Over 130 government – funded, church-based residential schools were established. More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children attended these schools, leaving a black mark on Canadian and aboriginal history.
There are currently 80,000 survivors, with the impact of residential schools leading to today’s aboriginal issues, according to Rattray.
“We need to break down indigenous barriers to post-secondary education (and) these scholarships are one more way to do that,” she said. “We’re telling aboriginals that this university is for you, and you deserve to be here.”
Applications for the scholarship are available online at www.uwinnipeg.ca.
Published in Volume 65, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 9, 2010)