The Bigstone Cree Nation’s education authority has received the Sen. Thelma Chalifoux Award from NAIT for ongoing support of Aboriginal students studying at the polytechnic in Edmonton.
The award was presented in conjunction with NAIT’s annual Aboriginal Culture Day, which included a pipe ceremony, women’s circle, blanket ceremony and a dance performance, along with stew and bannock.
The Bigstone Cree Nation, which has about 9,000 members, currently funds and sponsors 140 students through its post-secondary education program. Over the past three years, it has supported 13 students at NAIT.
“We try to be there as much as we can throughout our students’ academic journey. We do everything we can to keep them positive and focused and allow them to meet their goals,” said Chester Auger, director of Education for the Bigstone Cree Nation.
“I really think the Aboriginal Student Centre at NAIT is important, having a place for our kids to go to feel like they belong and they’re safe. When you have that kind of centre, you are going to have success,” Auger said.
The education authority’s counsellor visits students throughout the year to provide mentorship as well as academic and social supports.
Introduced in 2000, the Sen. Thelma Chalifoux Award is presented annually by NAIT to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to Métis and First Nations student success.
Chalifoux was the first Métis woman in the Senate, appointed by then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien on Nov. 26, 1997 to represent Alberta. She served until Feb. 9, 2004. Chalifoux had previously served as
Glenn Feltham, NAIT president and CEO, said Bigstone has shown a deep and long-standing commitment to student success at NAIT and at other post-secondary institutions across the province.
“We are proud to present them with the Sen. Thelma Chalifoux Award in recognition and appreciation of their support.”