Nelson Bird Column

It’s June and that means another school year is coming to an end. There is excitement in the air and it applies to elementary, high school, and of course many university students. The joys of summer will soon begin but in a few months it will be back to the books to get that all-encompassing and valuable education; the key word being ‘education.’

Recently I was approached by my colleague and friend Mervin Brass who asked if I’d write an opinion piece and I happily agreed. Mervin and I met over 20 years ago as university students. Our paths have remained relatively similar. We are both graduates of The University of Regina School of Journalism (Class of 97). Mervin has held a variety of positions including radio, TV, and public relations and has been successful at all of them.

I’ve been fortunate to work at CTV Saskatchewan for 16 years as a reporter, anchor, producer and most recently, News Assignment editor at CTV Regina. Most of my years have been spent sharing the stories of SK First Nation, Metis and non-aboriginal people. My overall goal was to educate the general public on who we really are.

I know it’s not for everybody but education has been a life changer for me. We’re told at a young age “get out there; get an education; become somebody!”
Education has been and continues to be the main tool that will determine our future. It defined our past but not always in a good way; case in point – residential schools. That era must be acknowledged but it is also important to take time to celebrate and honor the successes that continue to shine in our province. We don’t do that enough.

The reality is that we encourage our young people to get educated and leave the reserve but once they do that, too many communities shun their successes and call them ‘sell outs’ or tell them they are no longer a First Nation person because they left the reserve. I’ve always said ‘the reserve does not define who I am as First Nations person because no matter where I go in life I will always be First Nation and it doesn’t end at the reserve’s border.”

A young university student recently told me how she left her reserve a few years ago and is now very close to completing her degree but is now viewed almost as a traitor because of her accomplishments. On the one hand it’s wonderful to leave the reserve and go to school and work but it can be a double-edged sword where one should be prepared to not-be-welcomed back with open arms.

I have witnessed this first hand. I have been fortunate to be invited to, and welcomed with open arms to so many First Nation and Metis communities over the years. Cowessess for example held a feast and round dance to honor the achievements of my young colleague Creeson Agecoutay and I. We were given gifts and took part in a ceremony. I will always remember and cherish that.

I am always humbled and it is with a great sense of pride that I find myself in the position to be asked to speak at schools in our province and I encourage others to do the same. Because in the end, our education isn’t just about a classroom or lecture hall; it’s about sharing our knowledge and respecting those who’ve made the effort are were not afraid to do everything in their power to be the best they can.

“Treaty 4 News” is an example where we’ve come from and where we are going. It allows writers like Mervin Brass, and others, to share our successes and to never shun them or make them feel underappreciated – because that does happen. United we stand; divided we fall. It’s that simple.

Nelson Bird is a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation.
The views shared are those of Nelson Bird and not those of CTV News.

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