“In my second year of studies I connected with a classmate over our shared curiosity to learn more about our Indigenous backgrounds. I’m Métis, but my family didn’t practice Indigenous customs.
My classmate went on to be very successful in reconnecting with her culture. Watching her hit those milestones I knew that if she could do it, I could do it too.
I’d say the tipping point for me was winning a bursary from Okanagan College to attend the Indigenous Women’s Leadership Summit. I wasn’t even sure I should apply. I felt because I wasn’t as connected to my culture, I might be stealing the opportunity from someone who would benefit more.
It was an absolutely transformative weekend for me. I never thought I was Indigenous enough to be involved in my own culture, but at the summit I learned I wasn’t the only Indigenous person who felt that way.
It was one thing when I thought I was unique but when I realized this was common practice and that so many people did not have that connection, I just knew that I had to act.
We are never going to have a successful society where Indigenous people can thrive if Indigenous youth are blaming themselves for not having that cultural understanding and knowledge of their languages, practices and traditions.
I came home and I thought, ‘now that I have all of this knowledge with the tools that I have in my life what is the next step for me to do something?’
I am in the Bachelor of Business Administration Honours program and I decided to use my Honours project to focus on how Indigenous students can engage more with Aboriginal Services at Okanagan College.
Awards played a big part in my education. I knew I did not want to graduate with a lot of debt and that meant I worked two to three jobs when going to school. Anytime I got an award in any amount, it was just that little extra stress off my plate.
Higher education makes such a huge impact in someone’s life. In their ability to be happy and healthy and their earning potential. Education also plays such a huge role in building a better tomorrow and a better society and I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this throughout my education.
I feel incredibly thankful every single day that I was lucky enough to be able to get a degree and have this experience. The funding and the support from everyone involved in the process is unbelievably generous and absolutely essential, so my deepest thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Saige is the first Okanagan College recipient of the B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation.