“Chen kwenmentumi kwis nexníẃ – I am truly grateful for the teachings”: SFU Skwxwú7mesh Úxwimixw MEd cohort ready to impact future generations
Indigenous student Chérie Baker, of Skwxwú7mesh Úxwimixw (Squamish Nation), entered the field of education as a result of the significant impact and trauma endured by her family as a result of the residential school system.
Baker felt that her younger family members, including her sons, nieces and nephews, needed a voice to advocate for quality education for Indigenous Peoples.
With that in mind, she enrolled in the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw Master of Education (MEd), offered through Community Graduate Programs in the Faculty of Education at SFU. Baker is one of 12 students who will graduate on October 8.
“Earning my Master’s degree in Skwxwú7mesh Education will strengthen my voice,” Baker says. “It will open doors that might allow me to help make a greater impact for our future generations.”
The Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw MEd program is a two-year degree program designed for leaders within the Squamish Nation and collaboratively envisioned by members of the Ta7lnew̓ás Education, Employment and Training Department along with Community Graduate Programs in the Faculty of Education.
It represents one of the many ways in which SFU has created pathways for Indigenous students to make higher education more accessible and relevant to their needs and interests.
Barriers were reduced by admitting some students to the program using non-traditional admission requirements, based on several years of exemplary and varied educational and professional experience.
Those students admitted into the certificate program could then ladder to the MEd if they maintained graduate level performance standards in the first three of seven courses. In their capstone projects, all students took up the work of decolonizing practices and cultural resurgence that are fundamental to reconciliation.
For Baker, the program has been an inspiring and uplifting experience. Over the past two years she was able to develop deep bonds with the other students in her cohort, thanks to the care and respect she received from her instructors, who were Indigenous women.
“As Indigenous women, they were strong, smart role models who shared everything they could to help us on our journeys,” says Baker. “Their teachings, and the ones received from my cohort, are respected gifts that I'll always hold close to my heart.”
Baker researched inclusive education and how Skwxwú7mesh pedagogy and epistemology could be incorporated in schools, through the exploration of the methods used by their ancestors when teaching.
“We're picking up this journey from our ancestors before us,” she says. “This is how it's supposed to be. It's our job to continue to strive for the best that education has to offer our mén’men, our children.”
As the manager for the Advocacy, Support & Assessment team in her community, she plans to use her knowledge from the program to support current and future generations as they go to school.
“An ha7lh en skwálwen, an wanáxws ten skwálwen. Chen kwenmentumi kwis nexníẃ. Chen kwenmentumi kwis esém’kwu i chén’chenstway – I have good feelings in my heart and proud of who I am. I am truly grateful for the teachings. I am truly grateful for being blanketed, wrapped in protection and upheld as a Skwxwú7mesh woman throughout this program.”