Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards bring recipients one step closer to achieving their dreams
When Taneiya Mahe and Ramsey Mudryk imagine their future together, they know a few things for certain. “We just know that we want to help make whichever community we live in better,” says Mudryk. They also know that they’d prefer to end up in one of the eight Métis settlements in Alberta. And, perhaps most important of all, he adds, they look forward to being “a part of restoring (their) traditional culture and help(ing) improve the Métis nation as a whole.”
As recipients of the 2018 Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards (BBMA), Mahe and Mudryk are one step closer to making those plans a reality. The BBMA were founded by Dr. Herb Belcourt, Orval Belcourt and Georges Brosseau Q.C., directors of Canative Housing Corporation. The Canative Housing Corporation began operating in 1971, in response to the growing need for affordable housing for Alberta’s Métis people. Over the next three decades, the company purchased 228 homes in Edmonton and Calgary, renting them to Métis people at affordable rates. Turning their minds to the longterm success of their people, the founders decided to make an investment in education, founding the BBMA program in 2001.
With help from Edmonton Community Foundation, Canative Housing Corporation established an endowment fund of $13 million. Now in excess of $19 million, the fund continues to grow and disperses $600,000 every year to Métis learners via the BBMA, which are now the largest non governmental source of student funding in all of Canada for Métis students.
With help from the BBMA program, Mahe was able to embark on studies at the University of Alberta, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education. Her passion to become a teacher stemmed from her dreams of becoming a mother one day, she explains. She thanks her own mother for inspiring her ambition to work with children and to be a role model. When Mahe was growing up, her mother was the sole provider for her nine children, eight of whom, including Mahe, were adopted.
“I will forever be grateful for my mom raising us as her own and building and guiding us on a pathway towards success,” says Mahe.
Although her mother was non-Indigenous, Mahe always felt connected to her Métis roots. Her mother ensured she and all her adoptive siblings, either Métis or Indigenous, knew where they came from. Visits to her biological family were common, giving Mahe her very first experiences with her Métis heritage.
“We would come home from those visits with a little teaching each time, like smudging before dinner (or) how we always should say ‘see you later’ instead of ‘goodbye.’”
Mahe notes that although her experience in the child welfare system was a positive one, “most children’s experience in the foster-care system are not as fortunate as mine.” Currently, Indigenous children in care in Alberta are vastly overrepresented, numbering 5,337 out of a total of 7,580. Mahe hopes to have an impact on the lives of those children in care.
“I want to use my mother’s influence to pursue my dream in supporting the youth of our society and to be a role model for them,” she explains, “to do as much as I can to assist raising them, guiding them towards their identity as Métis people and to represent what they can accomplish themselves. I want to be able to use my personal experiences to help others heal and grow from their own.”
Along with her strong family ties, another support for Mahe as she progresses through her studies is spouse Ramsey Mudryk, also a recipient of a 2018 BBMA. Mudryk is enrolled in the Primary Care Paramedic program at Northern Lakes College and is currently taking the National Fire Protection Association 1001 Standard for Firefighting Professionals program. He plans on completing a bachelor of applied business in emergency services. Although it’s a long road ahead of him in terms of studies, as Mudryk says, it is all “necessary to accomplish my career goals of providing the best possible emergency services in Métis communities.”
Mudryk’s volunteer work as a first responder, where he provided aid to a Cree nation as well as a Métis settlement, opened his eyes to the issues faced by Métis and Indigenous communities. He recalls “a lack of funding for proper resources and training, discrimination from responders from outside communities, and response times of over an hour.”
Mudryk’s Métis heritage was not always central to his identity. He grew up in a small town in east-central Alberta, with little knowledge of, or exposure to, his cultural roots. “My family is like many others that chose not to fully embrace their Métis heritage for generations to avoid discrimination and persecution,” he explains. Mudryk’s first experience learning Métis history was in a social studies class in junior high. “Since then,” he adds, “being Métis has become an integral part of my identity.”
Mudryk continues to learn more about his history and celebrates what it means to be Métis. For him, this includes “a sense of family, community and willingness to help each other achieve our ambitions.”
Although they’re just beginning their journey of formal education together, Mahe and Mudryk anticipate a lifelong path of learning, thanks to the generosity of the BBMA program and donors.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be finished,” Mudryk notes, “as there is so much we wish to learn, such as the Cree and Michif languages, our rich and long history, and everything our traditions have to teach us.”
BBMA HELPING MÉTIS LEARNERS
Each academic year, BBMA provides 140 awards ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 towards tuition and fees for Métis learners. Since its establishment in 2001, BBMA has presented more than 1,800 awards to more than 1,200 Métis students across Alberta, with a total value of over $7.2 million.
The success rate for award recipients is astounding, with graduates including roughly:
- 95 nurses
- 38 social workers
- 66 teachers
- 38 business professionals
- 32 lawyers
- 15 accountants
- 12 conservation sciences professionals
- 37 engineers
- 17 medical doctors
- 16 dentists and dental assistants
Recipients have also graduated as aviation mechanics, carpenters and cabinet makers, chiropractors, electricians, forestry professionals, film and video professionals, funeral directors, motorcycle mechanics, pharmacists and veterinarians.
To be considered for the BBMA program, applicants are assessed holistically on factors such as connection to their Métis community, financial need, capacity for success and likelihood of improved opportunities, as well as their individual circumstances.
Application deadline for this year’s awards is March 31. Applications are available on the BBMA website HERE.
Listen to an interview with Taneiya Mahe and Ramsey Mudryk on The Well Endowed Podcast by clicking HERE.