Bear, from Little Pine First Nations, is in his final year in the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). His bachelor’s degree was challenging in many ways. Through all the challenges, Bear persevered while keeping his warm personality and his beliefs intact, while becoming a leader within his community of students. For these reasons Bear was nominated by his college for a Resiliency Award at this year’s Indigenous Student Achievement Awards.
The award ceremony was part of Indigenous Achievement Week (IAW) that annually celebrates the successes and contributions of Métis, First Nations and Inuit students, staff, faculty, and alumni.
Bear agreed to answer some questions about his time at USask and what he has planned for the future.
Why did you choose the Management Program in Edwards School of Business?
I chose Edwards School of Business because of its reputation within Canada and high-quality business education program. I felt Edwards would be the best fit to help me achieve my goal of becoming a business owner and an entrepreneur.
Returning to university to obtain my bachelor’s degree was one of my long-life dreams. While attending university I was able to learn new skills and improve my current business abilities, to apply what I learned in the classroom to advance my career, and to feel personal satisfaction from completing something I started years ago. I feel that my organizational, time management, and presentation skills are three areas where I have made significant progress. Being taught by business professionals at Edwards has given me the opportunity to gain some experience in the business world and they have shown me how important it is to acquire these business tools and skills in order to maintain and improve my daily functions at work or in my everyday life.
Is there someone in your life who inspired you to get where you are today?
I have several people in my life who have inspired me to be where I am today, such as my mom and siblings, but the one person who inspired me the most is my dad. He owned and operated his own small business several years ago, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. At the time I didn’t know what I was going to do or what I was going to build, but I knew that one day I wanted to have my own business. My father inspired me in several ways. It was a combination of his strong work ethics, his never-give-up attitude, always caring, honest, patient and most of all giving me advice to just believe in myself that anything is possible. If you work hard, you will become successful in whatever you do. My dad is my rock; he has always been there for me; he goes above and beyond not only for myself but also for my siblings; if we need him, he is there, and I want to carry on those attributes that he instilled in me.
You are receiving an award for resiliency, what does that word mean to you?
To me, it means having strong personal qualities that allow you to thrive in the face of adversity regardless of the challenges or circumstances you are facing. We all face challenges and hardships; however, it is the ability to recover spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally after experiencing those difficult times or situations that is important. Despite all this, it is about finding the positive in your experiences, finding the meaning in them and, more importantly, learning from them.
You are in your final year at Edwards. Looking back on your life at USask is there a stand-out memory that you are proud of?
A stand-out moment that I have during my academic years at Edwards is becoming a Headperson for our diverse student body group, Indigenous Business Students’ Society (IBSS) in 2019-2020. I became the Headperson for Traditions and Events that year, I am grateful and honoured to have been able to represent the Indigenous Business Students on campus. During my time as Headperson of Traditions and Events, I was able to manage a team of IBSS members in planning and organizing our very first annual rounddance which was held at the Education gymnasium. As it was our first IBSS rounddance, I consulted with Elders, and followed proper protocols on conducting this ceremony that included a feast and pipe ceremony. I am proud to say that our IBSS rounddance was a great success.
What are your goals for the future?
My future goals are to own and operate a small business and to become an entrepreneur. Although I am interested in furthering my education in obtaining a master’s degree in business administration, for the time being, I would like to take a break from my studies and focus on growing my small business.
My future goals were in line with my two brothers, as we discussed managing and operating a family business. One of my brothers recently passed on to the spirit world, so our family business came to a halt. After having many conversations with my other brother, we decided to go ahead as planned and to build our family business as we would honour my late brother in some way. My late brother had a huge impact in my life as we got older, and he was a large part of my future goals as he saw something in me that I didn’t. He made me believe that anything is possible if I set my mind to it, and that I would succeed in my studies. My late brother was always there for me as I was for him, as he supported and encouraged me to get my commerce degree so we could build our family business together. My brothers and I shared a vision that could change our future and various aspects of our lives.
Is there anything you’d like to share?
First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge we are on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis as we pay respects to the Inuit, First Nations and Métis ancestors of this land and we reaffirm our relationship with one another.
When I first got accepted to the University of Saskatchewan in 2017, I went to the Aboriginal Student Centre to get some information about where my classes would be held and where the buildings were. As it was my first time on this massive USask campus, the staff at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre were extremely helpful, they made me feel comfortable and welcomed. One thing I would like to mention is that when you arrive on campus or at any post-secondary institution for the first time, look for resources that will assist you throughout your academic years in your college or university. It is, in my opinion, one of the most important things you can do for yourself because it will help you overcome many challenges and obstacles in your educational journey, as it did with mine.
I’ve discovered that being on campus for the first week or two weeks can be extremely important for any new student. During this time, you will be making critical decisions that will affect you and the rest of your university student life. Whatever you do, be yourself and try to enjoy your post-secondary experience as much as possible. Perhaps consider joining a select student group or create one if you feel there is a need for it, get to know your professors and/or academic advisors, get involved in some student study groups or join a sports team; I guarantee you'll make new friends, learn new skills and you’ll feel more connected to your university.
In conclusion I would like to express my deepest gratitude and thank all the staff at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre for all the support and resources you provided me throughout my educational journey at the University of Saskatchewan. I will never forget all you have done for me to succeed in my studies. One short story I would like to share is, as difficult as it was when I lost my late brother, it was through the grace of God/Creator, that I found the courage and strength to keep moving forward. I smudged, prayed and had faith in the higher power to keep me focused, to concentrate and give me guidance, especially when I needed some direction and peace of mind to keep going. As time passed, I began to believe in myself again, and I became determined to continue my journey to get my education. As a mature student who has overcome all barriers and challenges, I am more motivated than ever to complete my lifelong dream. My lifelong dream has always been to return to university and earn a business degree, and in 2022, I will proudly walk across that stage in memory of my beloved brother.