Op-ed: Celebrating our Indigenous mothers who graduated this year
- Jeanelle Mandes | August 29, 2019
As we gear up for back to school, let’s take another moment to look back and celebrate the graduations that took place this year. It’s always a momentous time for graduates of all ages. I’m always proud of our Indigenous graduates here in the province. Especially when I see mothers who earn that diploma, certificate or degree.
As a single mother who was once a university student, I know and understand the struggles of obtaining a post-secondary education and caring for a child. It was hard on the pockets and there were times when I had no food in my fridge. Luckily, I had supportive family and friends who would provide my daughter and I with care packages to get through the days. I even had to swallow my pride to walk through the doors of the food bank. But I became thankful and appreciative for services such as that. Take advantage of opportunities like that. Never allow hunger to be the reason why you had to quit school. When you persevere through the hard times, your children will see the sacrifices you’ve made to make their futures brighter.
I was reading the biographies of our annual grad photo contest and I was proud of all of their achievements. A few entries stood out to me.
Cree Crain from the Muskoday First Nation graduated with a Mental Health and Wellness Diploma at SIIT. She shared her story with us which I admired. She became a mother at the age of 15 and it was also the day she experienced being homeless. Luckily, her sister was there to help her raise her daughter. Crain endured trauma in her life where she had turned to drugs and alcohol to numb her pain. Few years later, she sought help through Egadz in Saskatoon and was able to see an elder who had helped her to sober up through ceremony.
Crain shared a strong piece of advice for others who have faced trauma and living a hard life and want to do better.
“Always remember that nobody’s perfect and you will succeed,” she wrote. “I was always told I would never make it this far from where I was before but with hope, prayer and sobriety, I walked across that stage this year June 5, 2019 with my head held high.”
Laney Amanda Poitras Kay from the Kawacatoose First Nation graduated from Raymore High School recently. Her inspiration to push through school was her beautiful baby boy Hasen and had set the goal of completing her Grade 12 diploma so she could continue into post secondary to obtain a career so she could raise her one-year old son comfortably. She was also a young single young mother.
Bridget Linklater from Pelican Narrows in northern Saskatchewan shared a heartfelt story that resonated with me. She was raised by her mother as a single parent. They went through many hardships including not always having a home or having the most expensive things that other kids had. When she was about 10-years-old, she recalled helping her mother carry almost ten bags of food from the local food bank down 20 blocks. Linklater’s mom sat down and cried and said, “Enough of this struggling! Mommy is going back to school!”
From then, Linklater remembered her mother going back to school and years later, she finished and obtained her degree to become a teacher.
“I was so proud of her and still very proud of her today,” she wrote. “She always stresses the importance of education.”
Linklater had her children at a young age and decided to follow her mother’s footsteps and went back to school. She recently completed her Grade 12 and has been accepted to ITEP (Indian Teacher Education Program) in the fall.
“I want to be a positive inspiration for my children and hope that they too will follow their dreams and take on what the world has to offer them,” she wrote.
I always find it very interesting to read about Indigenous mothers who graduated high school or post-secondary studies. So, I decided to briefly research on this topic.
A document called “Women who are Lone Parents – Saskatchewan” prepared for the Saskatchewan Status of Women Office in August 2016 showed that lone parents are more commmon among Indigenous women. In 2011, 26.0% of First Nations women and 16.7% of Métis women in Saskatchewan were lone parents. This compares with 6.4% of non-Aboriginal women. In Section 4 of this document, lone-parent women have lower levels of completed education than other Saskatchewan women. In 2011, 45.1% of lone-parent women had a post-secondary education – either a diploma or certificate (35.4%) or a university degree (9.7%). This compares with 50.4% of all women. The presented data does not indicate how many of those lone women are Indigenous.
Although this data is a bit outdated, it’d be interesting to know what the numbers are today especially when the graduation rate has increased in Saskatchewan for Indigenous students.
With that, I would like to extend my congratulation greetings to all of Saskatchewan’s Indigenous graduates of 2019!