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Every year, the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) provides the Helen Bassett Commemorative Award to four Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, or gender-diverse students, in the amount of $1,000 each.
The awards are made possible through generous donation by Helen Bassett, an Ontario artist and passionate advocate for the advancement of Indigenous women, as well as fair solutions to Indigenous land claim issues. She directed open letters to Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his cabinet in 1980 and again in 1983, proposing a tax be levied on all land transactions in Canada, with a royalty paid to Indigenous Peoples. She outlined her ideas in Native Rights. In her selflessness, she specified NWAC as one of the beneficiaries of her estate. This has helped to sustain our post-secondary student awards program to this day.
Our Business, Employment, and Social Development (BESD) Unit coordinates the award program, while Indigenous youth manage the selection process.
Awards are provided to four Indigenous youth from each of the four directions: North, south, east, and west.
Brooke Gelinas is a fourth-year health science student at Western University in London, ON. She strives to promote diversity, equity and social inclusion at her university and in the community to build relationships with students, community members and Indigenous communities. As Western University’s Métis Nation of Ontario Infinite Reach Facilitator, she helps incoming students adjust to university life while encouraging the maintenance of traditional Métis values and practices. Brooke’s research interest is rooted in Indigenous health promotion. She is currently assessing health behaviours during COVID-19 and the knowledge of dementia risk factors among Indigenous older adults in the Exercise Mobility and Brain Health Lab. Study findings may help highlight areas for improved dementia literacy and healthy lifestyle resources for Indigenous populations to promote improved physical and cognitive health. Her interest stems from a desire to find ways to improve the health of Indigenous populations and her passion for the health sciences.
Kwe’, ni’n teluisi Rachel Creaser tleyawi Mi’kma’ki. My name is Rachel and I’m from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, also known as Mi’kma’ki, the home of my nation. I’m a member of Acadia First Nation. I’m 20 years old and I’m going into my 3rd year of university at Saint Mary’s University in Kjipuktuk (Halifax, NS) studying Social Justice Community Studies and Indigenous Studies. I am on a self-guided journey of learning and reclaiming my roots and living in Kjipuktuk has allowed me to become more independent but also more connected to a diverse urban community of Indigenous peoples that are great teachers and storytellers.
At my university I spend my time studying, running the Indigenous Student Society, and working as the Indigenous Student Initiatives Coordinator, where I advocate for a better student experience at university for Indigenous students. I’m so honoured and grateful to be the Eastern recipient of NWAC’s Helen Basset bursary this year, and I’m excited for this upcoming year of change at the post-secondary level. We must have truth before reconciliation.
As a Little Pine First Nation member located in Treaty Six territory (western Saskatchewan), Shaylee Piska has one boy, and she is a community peer support worker. She is advancing her education, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Criminal Justice and minoring in Indigenous Studies on the Treaty Seven territory. She is a Cree/Ojibwa with a strong appreciation for her Nehiyaw and Anishinaabe heritage.
She volunteered in a wide range of community events and is an advocate for first nations, MMIWG2+ and their children. Shaylee has worked collectively for the betterment and advancement of all First Nations, prioritizing our Indigenous Youth. Ensuring the development impacts their socio-political and economic status.
My name is Libby Day-Macleod and I am 18 years old. I am Inuvialuit, born and raised in Inuvik, NT. I love being outdoors and especially attending music festivals and cultural events put on in the area. I am excited about this new chapter in my life, moving to Edmonton and attending MC College.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada is proud of its Helen Bassett Commemorative Student Award winners, who have all demonstrated a commitment to improving the lives of Indigenous women and youth politically, economically, and culturally.