Kamloops grads

October 7, 2010

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More than 3,000 students will graduate at this fall’s convocation on Oct. 7 and 8, but 23 First Nations students in Kamloops, B.C. received their degrees and diplomas on Sept. 24 during a special convocation ceremony held at the Sk’elep School of Excellence in Kamloops.

More than 400 Aboriginal men and women have earned SFU undergraduate degrees through the Kamloops program since its inception in 1988. The unique program has focused on community-based social research training, archaeological and cultural resource management, as well as the chance to study First Nations issues from a First Nations community perspective.

SFU News features three of the most recent grads:

Desmond Peters Jr., BA (First Nations Studies and Linguistics)
Ts’kaw’aylaxw First Nation

Desmond Peters is the second member of his family to earn a degree from SFU. His father, also Desmond Peters, now 77, was among the Kamloops program’s first graduates in the 1990s. Both are hereditary chiefs who have long served their community in a number of ways, particularly in the area of language preservation. "The language is the culture and the culture comes from the language," says Desmond Jr. "Saving the language has really roped my attention." He teases his own son, another Desmond, that "two of us have bachelor’s degrees now—there’s just you left." Says Desmond the Elder: "This is today but tomorrow will be different. School is the only way to find the answers."

Josephine Eustache, BA (Anthropology and Linguistics)
Simpcw First Nation

One of the first to enrol in the Kamloops program back in 1988, Josephine Eustache paused her academic career so she could apply her newly gained mapping and research skills to help resolve legal issues facing her community. It was important to her to finish what she started though, and when she learned the locally based program would close at the end of 2010, she returned. She says her first years "were pretty tough. It was kind of depressing to learn about everything that was harming for aboriginal people. But I learned to use it to make a difference. To have patience is really hard."

Gayle Frank, BA (Archaeology and First Nations Studies)
Bridge River Indian Band

Gayle Frank is the first member of her family to have attended public school; her mother was one of the four generations lost to residential schools. For Frank, the Kamloops program "was like therapy" because it allowed her to reconnect with her immediate family and extended First Nations community. A parent of three who credits her mother for helping her complete her degree, she says "the more time I spent here, the more I could see changes in the way I reacted to the world. What I learned has helped me to be a better parent. I understand how I was raised and why I was raised that way. The healing has begun; the patterns and cycles have been stopped. Now I want to go back and help preserve my language and cultural heritage, either as a teacher or a politician."


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