Pasqua First Nation Creates Legacy for Indigenous Post-Secondary Students with Feather Project
- Kelsey No Runner, for PFN Group of Companies & Pro Metal Industries | April 09, 2022
Last summer as unmarked graves were discovered near Indian Residential School sites across the country, PFN Group of Companies, owned by Pasqua First Nation (PFN), understood that the first step to honouring Indian Residential School (IRS) victims and survivors is acknowledging the past.
Pro Metal Industries is 100 per cent owned by PFN, and is Western Canada’s premier precision metal fabrication specialist located in Regina Saskatchewan. As a leading manufacturer for big industries such as agriculture, oil and gas, and military and defence.
“With the news of the unmarked graves being discovered through the summer, it was hard on the team and we wanted to do something meaningful,” says Mark Brown, President of Pro Metal Industries. “We had a lot of organizations and individuals reach out to us, wanting to get involved in intentional and meaningful action to address the history of IRS.”
Utilizing their expertise in metal fabrication, Pro Metal produced a limited edition, Every Child Matters Eagle Feather, originally designed by artist Jonas Thomson from Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation.
“We wanted to help with the healing process, and leave a legacy for Indigenous people affected by IRS, and ensure the discovery of the unmarked graves are not forgotten,” says Brown. “We thought it’s going to be six months before we sell out the 1,000 feathers we produced. It sold out in two weeks, and we were able to raise $75,000.”
Pro Metal released an additional 1,000 feathers that sold out in three weeks, and in total their efforts raised $125,000.
In consultation with PFN leadership and elders, it was decided that all proceeds from the sales would go back to Indigenous people pursuing post-secondary education.
“When the project concept was developed, our intent was not to profit from the heart-breaking discoveries,” says Treena Amyotte, business development manager for PFN Group of Companies. “Our goal was to create awareness about the history of Residential Schools, ensuring this metal feather would be a conversation piece for years to come. The feather also gave the broader public an opportunity to show their support, as many non-Indigenous people wanted to do something but didn’t know how,” she says.
“We also wanted the funds to be directed towards survivors of residential schools and their descendants and we know the effect of residential schools are experienced beyond the borders of Pasqua First Nation.”
Impact for Indigenous Post-Secondary Students
The feather project is a bursary that ranged from $2,000 to $2,500 and was given to Indigenous students at the University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, First Nations University of Canada, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT), and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
Dr. Vickie Lamb Drover, Associate Vice President of Operations & Advancement at SIIT says that working with PFN on the allocation of the bursaries made a difference to every student that received a bursary, regardless of what program they were in.
“PFN gave us the freedom and the trust to ensure these funds got to students in need, where this bursary would make a huge difference to their academic success. These bursaries reduced barriers. Our students have all the skills to meet their academic goals, sometimes they just need a little help to take the pressure off other areas like childcare, housing, food security, or tutoring. These bursaries helped alleviate those pressures.”
Reila Bird is the director of Indigenous Continuing Education Centre at First Nations University of Canada. She says that she is humbled by the generosity that PFN has provided to Indigenous students.
“All of our students come to us from different places with different family dynamics, and levels of understanding of what they want to do with their careers. There’s so much complexity and costs associated with attending University. $2,500 is a lot of money to a student. That’s two months of rent. That’s food for children. That’s fixing or buying a car that can get them to and from school. Student life is not easy and it’s getting harder everyday.”
“Our students are very fortunate to have PFN Group of Companies provide support and assistance for our students who not only need it, but deserve recognition for the work they are putting into their studies.”
PFN and Pro Metal will continue the feather project to commemorate IRS victims and survivors, and in turn support Indigenous students attending post-secondary in Saskatchewan.
“PFN group of companies strives to create economic and business opportunities that support Pasqua’s growth and development,” says Amyotte. “We are looking for ways to leverage our existing partnerships and future partnerships to support what’s happening in Pasqua.”
Pro Metal will be collaborating with the original feather artist to create a new metal design that will be available for the public to purchase starting in July.
For more information, visit: prometal.ca/feathers/