Janelle Flett | 2019 | Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
I am Janelle Flett, I was born in Hay River, NWT. At a young age, my family moved to Fort McMurray. I belong to the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Band and have Gwich’in roots on my Mother’s side. I am so grateful and lucky to have such a large family that is filled with numerous positive and supportive influences that have help me grow and get to where I am today.
My senior year in High school came to an abrupt end when my city was evacuated due to the Horse River fire that surrounded our community. 88, 000 people were evacuated from our City. The experience was very terrifying and only being able to get my dogs before leaving, but luckily enough my home was safe, although others were not so lucky, and that year was spent trying to help the community recover.
As a kid I was always drawn to sports, playing both soccer and volleyball competitively was a struggle to balance but I loved it. These sports made me learn so much and created so many bonds with teammates and brought quite a few travel adventures from Toronto to Europe along with a few injuries. I played soccer from the time I was 5 years old playing both indoor and outdoor, which led me to getting a scholarship to Keyano college in Fort McMurray. Through the years of playing sports I was honoured of being named captain on a number of my teams. As Captain I had to set an example for my teammates, and often mentored the younger kids in the sport. My college soccer career that was short lived due to my drive to move to a larger city to become independent and pursue a science degree.
I am currently enrolled in my 3rd year of my Environmental Science degree at Mount Royal University in Calgary. I chose my program because I have always been passionate about the environment and the way our land is being use. As a little girl I dreamed I would save the earth from the greed of people; I obviously don’t believe that now, but I do think I can have a small impact being in this field. Being in a bigger city now can be challenging not knowing a lot of people you can feel isolated, but I do my best to get involved where I can while focusing on my studies.
Jyllian Jackson | 2019 | Saddle Lake Cree Nation is a 16-year-old young woman from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation. She is currently enrolled at St. Paul Regional High School completing her grade 11 year. Jyllian attended Vilna School from Grade 1-6, along with her younger sister and older brother. During her years at Vilna, she was friends with all her classmates and beyond. However, after the sixth grade, she transitioned from a small town k-12 school into a far more larger, challenging and progressive school. This transition meant new friends, new teachers, new work expectations, and definitely new peers. Unlike her previous school, she had to alter her work habits and work ethic. She found that on top of making new friends, she needed to work much harder to maintain desired marks. Along with transferring schools, she joined a new hockey team. She switched from playing on an all boy’s hockey team on her Nation to an all-female hockey team off reserve. This transition also required her to make new friends and possibly a new hockey family. After her first year at a completely new school, she was able to adapt and make close friends along the way. But, she still struggled to find a way to fit in with her hockey peers.
All through her junior high years up until grade 11, she always tried her best in every class she was in. However trying to achieve the marks she desired had created a tremendous amount of pressure, stress, and anxiety for her. The stress was sparked by the influence of her class peers, and comparing all her hard work to theirs. Luckily she was able to overcome that. In her grade 7-9 years, she was able to maintain her social life and was able to keep herself physically and mentally healthy by keeping a healthy diet, maintaining her fitness through at-home workouts, hockey, and having close and healthy relationships with her friends. By doing so she was able to promote a healthy lifestyle not only for herself but her friends and family as well.
As of starting high school, Jyllian struggled to maintain a social life. She found herself focusing only on hockey and school work. She aspired to have what she considered the perfect marks in her core classes: Chemistry, English, Social, Math, and Science. She only socialized with close friends, rather than the social butterfly she was before High School. In addition, when it came to tests, she got anxiety, which then led her to have panic attacks when it came to class presentations. On weekends, she would often stay home studying, visiting family, or else travelling for hockey. By the end of her grade 10 year, she sacrificed many social outings to focus on her goals.
Jyllian is currently trying her best to maintain a balance between both her school-work and social life, along with managing her stress and anxiety when it comes to social interaction and schoolwork. She hopes to one day overcome her anxiety and stress issues by continuing with her workouts and maintaining healthy relationships.
She hopes all her hard-work, determination, and passion she put forth in school and hockey will enable her to attend university, and pursue a career in the medical field, so she can one day help those in need around the world.
Sofia Sugai | 2019 | Blood reserve
Oki, my name is Sofia Sugai. I am 20 years old and I’m currently in my degree of Justice Studies at the Lethbridge College. I was born in Lethbridge but grew up just outside of Lavern on the Blood reserve. I am the youngest out of 4 siblings. I was involved with many sports growing up. I played volleyball, basketball, track, rugby, badminton, soccer, and softball all throughout junior high and high school. At the age of 8 I taught myself how to play guitar which spark my music interest. In junior high I played clarinet and through the years till high school I was in jazz band learning different instruments like the saxophone, percussion and trumpet.
After graduating high school in 2017. I went on to pursue my post-secondary education at the Lethbridge College. I enrolled in the Correctional Studies program which is a two-year diploma course. After graduating from the Correctional Studies program in April of 2019, I couldn’t resist to get my degree. I started my degree September 2019 and will graduate in April 2021. I want to pursue a career in youth probation or a youth case work. After doing my first practicum with Big Brother Big Sisters in Lethbridge. I was able to connect with many youth from Lethbridge and the Piikani Nation. I realized I didn’t want to work in a correctional centre, and I learned I wanted to mentor youth. Being a part of many different communities has taught me the important of mentorship. I also began to coach volleyball in 2017 at the Raymond Junior High School. This is where I was able to utilize my skills as an athlete and teach others how to grow. I am still currently coaching there and love every minute of it. I love being able to connect and guide individuals and teach them lifelong skills. This summer I worked as a summer camp coordinator / youth mentor at Family Ties. At this job I spent every day with youth at summer camp. This camp provided youth to learn hands on skills and lifelong tools to help benefit the youth. I have enjoyed being a part of all the different communities and being able to give back. I have volunteered well over 40 hours in each community and plan on giving back in any way I can. I value the strength and courage of the youth I’ve been around and wish to guide and support them along the way.
Although I have been able to accomplish many things and have lots of fun along the way, I also struggle with JRA. JRA means Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that onsets in children under the age of 16. This disease attacks the healthy cells and tissue and is located in joints. This disease caused inflammation of the synovial membrane in the joint. This disease has challenged me in many different ways, if it’s getting up in the morning and having stiff knees or having to walk with a limp. I struggle still to this day, but I have never given up hope that one day it will go away.
This scholarship will help me in many different ways, and I am so grateful and blessed to be chosen. With this money it will help me further myself in my academic career and for that I give a huge thanks to the Kamotaki Rescue Woman Memorial award.
Bryan Myers | 2018 | Sucker Creek
Bryan Myers was born High Prairie, Alberta. He resided with his family in Sucker Creek First Nation in northern Alberta all his life. Bryan was the youngest of five boys born to his mixed family. He is the third generation of Bryan’s in his family, and to save a lot of confusion called himself B3.
Bryan has always been a very self-motivated individual. He has always strived for the highest academic achievements and has been very successful in his pursuits thus far. Bryan has sat on the Youth Council in his home community of Sucker Creek and helped protect his home community with attending site visits with Sucker Creek Consultation ensuring his community is protected with oil and gas construction around the community.
Bryan has always had a passion for music. He received his first keyboard when he was 7 years old. He taught himself a few songs and entertained his family. Bryan then started attending music classes in school playing the clarinet and receiving piano lessons after school from a local piano teacher. His passion flourished, and Bryan played with his school music classes and community band on a yearly basis.
Attending university, and attaining a degree, is something Bryan always wanted. Until the age of 16, he was planning on pursuing a degree in robotics engineering but then decided that a career in neurology was a better fit. He also liked the idea of following in his mother’s footsteps of medical sciences. His mother is the Home Care/Community Health Nurse in Sucker Creek First Nation. Bryan is currently attending the UofA, Augustana campus, in his pursuit towards a doctorate in medical sciences and looks forward to becoming the first doctor from his home community.
Hayley Grier-Stewart | 2018 | Piikani Nation
Hayley was born in Pincher Creek, the pride and joy of her adopted grandmother, her maternal great-aunt, the late Marianne Crow Shoe whom she knew only as grandma. She received her Blackfoot name in a transfer ceremony in 2006 – it is the childhood name of her biological maternal grandmother, the late Eileen Grier (Crow Shoe).
Hayley is an articulate, outgoing young lady whose accomplishments at her young age are well beyond her years. These accomplishments include participation in various forms of activities such as in the performing arts of ballet, jazz, tap, and hip-hop and has received many awards in competitions, most notably receiving the Al Gilbert Award of Excellence for her tap dance exam. Hayley joined the Pow-Wow circle in grade 4 through the W.A. Day School Drum & Dance Group and now attends pow – wows as a jingle dress dancer. Hayley is a community role model and was crowned the Piikani Nation Jr. Miss Princess in the summer of 2010 and proudly served her reign as ambassador for the Piikani Nation until the summer of 2011; she also served as Miss Piikani Nation Sr. in 2015 and 2016.
Hayley is a leader in many respects and believes in giving back to her community, as well as other indigenous communities. In her own community Hayley served as the Secretary for the Piikani Nation Youth Council in Brocket, Alberta. This group of youth were tasked with bringing culture back to the youth of Piikani through community engagement. She was asked to join this council because of her background as a Niipoomaakiiks Society Youth Elder. Hayley is a descendent of military tradition and proudly carried on this legacy as a past member of the Fort Macleod Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corp., her rank, Sergeant. Additionally, in 2014 she was chosen to create a position paper with two other students from her school, regarding the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Collectively, the group decided that Hayley would be the one to participate in the TRC Finale, held in Edmonton, Alberta. She presented on behalf of all Alberta Youth of Treaty 6, 7, and 8 on the incorporation of Residential School History within Alberta curriculum.
Educationally, at graduation she was awarded honour roll for highest average in Social Studies 30-1, highest average in Blackfoot Language 30-1, honour roll in English 30-1, and highest average for her module work in Career and Life Management. In Hayley’s first year at the University of Lethbridge she was elected First Year Representative for the Native American Students’ Association, in her second year she was elected Secretary, and currently she is serving as this year’s Vice President (2018-2019). When Hayley first started at the U of L, she majored in Archaeology. However, as a youth with many aspirations she decided to switch to a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Hayley would like to encourage all youth to pursue education, participate in cultural events, and Iikaakimaat (try hard).
Shaylene Scarrett-White Eagle | 2018 | Siksika
Shaylene is a proud member of Siksika Nation. Siksika which translates to “Blackfoot” in the Blackfoot language, is a First Nations reserve that is a part of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Treaty 7 Territory. Shaylene also proudly acknowledges that she has Cree roots from Manitoba and Anishinaabe roots from Ontario on her mother’s side.
Throughout her younger years, Shaylene felt confused and lost, mainly due to the fact that her family has been deeply affected by historical trauma. As a result of her family’s suppressed residential school trauma and unhealthy coping mechanisms, Shaylene walked through the majority of her life with a sense of loss, in mind, body, and spirit. However, in 2013, at sixteen years old, Shaylene began her intergenerational-healing journey through the reclamation of practising Indigenous ceremony, being guided by Indigenous Elders, and utilizing therapeutic approaches. During her early stages of healing, Shaylene became familiar with her culture through participating in sweats, pipe ceremonies, and sage and sweetgrass picking. As well, Shaylene became aware of Canada’s dark history with Indigenous Peoples by listening to Elders’ stories of their experiences while in the care of the government funded Indian Residential Schools. Becoming conscious of the intent of the Indian Residential School (IRS) institutions, Shaylene was able to recognize how the IRS institutions had an effect on her life, even though she never attended one.
Today, Shaylene has been walking the red road for the past five and a half years; she continues to rely on her Indigenous culture to guide her on her journey. For the past four years, Shaylene has been working closely with Indigenous young people, in various capacities (i.e., youth mentor, youth worker). Currently, Shaylene resides in Calgary, Alberta, where she is pursuing an education in Psychology and Indigenous Studies at Mount Royal University. Her long-term goal, and passion, is to become a registered psychologist and work with her people in the mental health and addictions sector, to help guide them to who Creator meant them to be.
Nikki White | 2018 | Saddle Lake
Nikki White is a 21 year old woman from Saddle Lake community. Young life was challenging for Nikki, the fourth youngest of 9 children, she was the oldest in the household for many years, as all of the older siblings were adults (there is a 6-year age difference between the elder children and her). They faced challenges together as a family being raised by a single mother. Her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when Nikki was 16 years old. The responsibility at home with the younger siblings fell to her, so high school was no longer a priority. The challenges led to struggles which emerged into alcohol abuse.
After seeing her mother through treatment, working to support herself, and getting pregnant, Nikki decided to turn her life around for her baby. She worked to get her license and applied to go back to school to earn an education for nursing. She has remained sober since learning of her pregnancy. She has been engaged with the Youth Mentorship Program, and volunteers as a Youth Mentor Nurse with Saddle Lake Home Care. Nikki supports local pow-wows, round dances, community walks, and families during funerals, as well as participating in solstice gatherings to keep engaged and connected to her community.
The opportunity to study at Portage College for nursing will provide her the education necessary to become a nurse and continue helping members of her Nation.
Kobe Holloway | 2017 | Siksika
Kobe Holloway was born on May 2, 1999 and has four siblings and one nephew. Kobe’s mother, Tammy Holloway, is Blackfoot, and his father, Chuck Holloway, is an African American. At a young age, Kobe’s father served in the military, so he moved often throughout the United States and Canada and was not exposed to his Native heritage. Kobe’s parents wanted him to embrace his Blackfoot culture and made the decision to settle in Siksika Nation, the home of his mother’s ancestors. Kobe attended school in Strathmore, Alberta and completed his last year of high school in the United States to get exposure to his African American culture and to playing football.
Kobe values both of his cultures. He has struggled with racism and acceptance from his peers because of his appearance. He channeled this experience positively to better himself and to model respect and empathy for others regardless of their background. “Strive for excellence” has become Kobe’s motto and he believes that hard work and dedication is the key to success. Kobe wants to help other individuals who struggle with their own identity to embrace it.
Kobe is currently a mentor for youth in Siksika through the Siksika N7 program. He hopes to share his story of breaking through the barriers that he experienced because of being biracial. Kobe feels it is necessary to succeed in his educational endeavors, obtain a degree and achieve his goal of becoming a neurologist. He plans to do this by attending the University of Alberta and majoring in biomedical engineering, while playing football for the UofA Golden Bears. Kobe strives to have a ripple effect that will help change attitudes towards people of different race and culture.
Phillip Morin | 2017 | Siksika
Phillip Morin is from the Siksika Nation, where he has lived his whole life with three brothers and his mother. Growing up, Phillip went through the challenges of being raised by a single parent. He was always active as a kid, but he was bullied a lot at school. As a teenager, Phillip dreamed of becoming a skilled skateboarder like his older cousin and role model, Brandon Wolfleg. Brandon died in 2014.
To commemorate his late cousin, Phillip and his family and friends organized a skateboarding competition and barbeque, which is now held every year on June 21. Phillip and his older brother, Kyler, recognized the significant harms occurring among youth in their community from violence, drugs and alcohol. Feeling that they could relate to the challenges and negative experiences of others, they wanted to do something to counter this trend.
In 2016, Phillip and Kyler established a skateboarding company with a mission to help heal, preserve, and bring hope to Siksika youth. The company, SkateAholics, hosts many events and sells clothing and other merchandise. Establishing and growing the company was a steep learning curve and required determination and commitment. At the same time as developing his company, Phillip committed himself to finishing his school work. The success of SkateAholics and the impact Phillip and his brother are having on young people were recognized by community leadership and Phillip’s school principal.
Tamera-Leigh Burnstick | 2017 | Alexander First Nation
Tamera-Leigh Burnstick is a 19-year-old Cree woman from Paul First Nation who grew up in Alexander First Nation. Growing up, she was a happy girl who loved her family. However, at a young age, Tamera-Leigh lost her mother to a severe illness. She then lived with her kukum (grandmother), mushum (grandfather) and her sister. They provided her with love, knowledge and support, but she was still troubled by the passing of her mother.
Beginning in junior high school, she began a pattern of poor grades, absenteeism, smoking marihuana and keeping friends who were a negative influence. At 14, she was taken into child care and was sent to a group home in Edmonton. Tamera felt angry and lost. She engaged in alcohol, substance abuse and illegal activities. She found herself in dangerous and life-threatening situations, including drug overdoses. She underwent treatment, but continued to struggle with addictions, even though she saw how much pain it was causing her family, friends and teachers, and how much harm she was causing to herself. In 2014, she was able to stabilize her life after a 90 day rehab program for youth.
The following year, Tamera found herself facing a new challenge - senior high school. This time, something had changed. She worked hard and put more effort into every challenge and opportunity that faced her. She began receiving many awards and recognition for her efforts, including awards for academic achievement and for female athlete of the year. Tamera had many new experiences, learned a lot about herself and began participating in youth leadership activities.
Although Tamera was in a dark place, she believes that with the support of her family, friends and teachers, she is lucky to be alive and to have turned her life around and to be achieving success in school. She believes that the creator has a bigger role for her as someone who can be a role model to help other young First Nations individuals overcome adversity and strive to achieve their goals.
Rilee Manybears | 2016 | Siksika
Rilee was raised in Siksika Nation, Alberta, where he lived with his parents and his three younger siblings. During his elementary school years, at the encouragement of one of his teachers, he joined their school track and field team. He also participated in other sports such as cross country, basketball, volleyball, and golf throughout his school years. In his high school graduation year, he set a record for the Bassano School by competing in 4 different ASAA Provincial Championships in one year: track and field, cross country, volleyball and skills (TV/video editing).
High school was also a devastating time for Rilee because he lost his father, who had always supported and encouraged him. Not long after his father's death, Rilee began struggling with drugs and alcohol to numb his pain.Through conversations with his younger brother, Rilee realized the destructive path he was on and how it was upsetting to his family. Rilee began running again as a form of healing.
The following year, he began training for the North American Indigenous Games. In 2014, at the Games, Rilee won gold in the 3,000 meter, bronze in the 1,500 meter, and bronze in the 6,000 meter cross country races. He also began training with the University of Calgary Track & Field team to prepare for the next Canadian Cross Country Championships. Rilee's running highlight occurred when he won Gold in the 8,400 meter race at the first World Indigenous Games held in Palmas, Brazil in 2015. Rilee was also selected to be part of Billy Mills' Team Running Strong, to participate in the Boston Marathon in 2016.
Rilee's story is told in a short documentary entitled "The Failure Way," available on Youtube. He now speaks at various events across Alberta to share his inspiring message of perseverance and hope.