The Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards are changing the world for Métis Albertans

Orval Belcourt, Dr. Herb Belcourt and Georges Brosseau Q.C. have long been advocates of education within the Métis community. They saw post-secondary education as a way to support the long-term success of Métis Albertans. This is why in 2001 they created an endowment fund at Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) called the Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards (BBMA).

Today, the awards program has provided more than $11 million to approximately 2,000 Métis students in Alberta.

Theresa Majeran, communications and marketing consultant at BBMA, calls herself a “cheerleader” for Métis students. For the past 17 years, she has seen first-hand the success the program has had on many levels.

“We’re changing the landscape of how the world is going to be for upcoming Métis people. And with that, we’re creating a huge sense of pride. A sense of pride is more valuable than the money they receive to help pay tuition. Because many come to us not knowing what it really means to be a modern, urban-based Métis person. They’re not so much practising traditional ways of being Métis like trapping. So, they need to know that they can participate in a modern society and still be a cultural, Métis person,” explains Majeran.

The endowment fund, which started with $13 million, has grown to $20 million. It has become one of the largest sources of non-governmental funding of Métis students in Canada.

“ECF has been integral in ensuring that we never ever in two decades had a year where we didn’t have a profit in our interest margins. Plus, they’re just very supportive. And as the Indigenous landscape has grown over 20 years, ECF has embraced the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action,” says Majeran.

Steele Bailey, a BBMA recipient, completed a business and entrepreneurship program at NAIT this past January. He credits BBMA with being one of the main reasons he was able to pursue a post-secondary education.

Steve Bailey, BBMA recipient

“It’s a lot easier to go to school when you’re not having to worry about the burden of money. And that was a big thing for me. That really pushed me to go to school otherwise I honestly didn’t see myself going. The cultural connection they brought me and the warmth and the passion that they showed me and how it’s led my career in a good direction is great, fantastic in fact,” he explains.

Bailey, who has always had a passion for golf, received his golf Pro Card this summer. Currently, he works in the back shop at Edmonton Golf and Country Club. In the future he hopes to teach golf and his “biggest dream” is to have his own golf course.

“Trying to combine both business and golf is kind of my goal. Also, to be involved in the Métis world. If I can combine all three into one that’s the dream right there,” he says.

In addition to financial support, BBMA helped foster business connections throughout Bailey’s post-secondary education.

“It’s been great. It brought me even closer to my culture. Now, I can say that in return, part of my passion is to give back to my community one day,” says Bailey.

One of the events BBMA hosts every year is the Sash Ceremony. The ceremony, held in September, ushers in new students and lets them know there is a whole community supporting them.

“The Métis Sash is a strong symbol, the minute that these students all have the same symbol around their waist or over their hearts, they know they are part of each other and they start networking instantly. And it goes far beyond anything trackable, because I see them on social media telling each other I just had a baby…I just got a brand new job at a big corporation. So, I know that we have formed that Métis community that Herb, Georges and Orval had dreamed about, which was our people helping our people. It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up, as Herb always said,” explains Majeran.

This story comes from the Fall 2023 edition of Legacy in Action. Take the reader survey for a chance at a $100 prize!