Photo courtesy of U of S

Three Indigenous PhD students at the University of Saskatchewan have been awarded 2017 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships.

The Vanier scholarships recognize top-tier PhD students who demonstrate excellence in academia, research impact and leadership at Canadian universities.

One of the Aboriginal recipients is Terrance Pelletier from the Cowessess First Nation. Pelletier is a residential school survivor and former chief. He will study how leadership models within his community have been influenced by the effects of colonization.

He is looking to interview other residential school survivors and current leaders to look at the connection between the residential school process, Indian Affairs and leadership development, and how this impacts the current leadership within his community.

He says his research will look at how a rigid bureaucracy had a major impact on what he calls the “structure of First Nation society”. “Being in residential school, the priests made sure that we were following orders, and then Indian Affairs comes along and they do the same thing,” he said. “Our behaviors were shaped for the bureaucracy, so that would become a major part of our lives.”

Pelletier says he hopes the research will help his community and other First Nations in promoting principles and governance systems, and to develop more effective education systems and social institutions.

“The young people coming up, they’re not impacted by residential schools, and Indian Affairs is not a big part of their psyche,” he said.  “They can be more creative in their teaching and their planning.”

The other Indigenous scholarship winners were Jocelyn Joe-Strack from the Yukon and Tasha Spillett from Manitoba. One other recipient was an exchange student from Nigeria.