Graduating University of Saskatchewan student Oralie George. (Photo: Submitted)
Graduating University of Saskatchewan student Oralie George. (Photo: Submitted)

USask graduate thrives in Kanawayihetaytan Askiy program

Oralie George completed the Kanawayihetaytan Askiy Certificate while maintaining her professional career in Ontario.

By Brett Makulowich

“My experience was phenomenal, and I recommend the Kanawayihetaytan Askiy program to anyone who is part of land resources, land management or who is Indigenous,” said Oralie George.

George is a member of Alderville First Nation, part of the Mississauga (Michi Sagig) Ojibway Nation, which is located east of Toronto, Ont. Her spirit name is Niimi Miigizi Kwe which means Dancing Eagle Woman. Her Clan is Bear, Mkwa n Dodem.

George will officially receive her Kanawayihetaytan Askiy Certificate at USask Spring Convocation, taking place on June 5 at Merlis Belsher Place. 

Kanawayihetaytan Askiy (KA) means “let us take care of the land” in Cree. The KA program examines environmental, legal, and economic aspects of land and resource management in Indigenous communities. Students learn about Indigenous rights, strategic planning, land use planning, traditional knowledge, resource management, intellectual property law, and project management.

This academic program is offered by the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and offers both certificate and diploma options.

At the start of the pandemic, George moved back home to Alderville First Nation from Calgary. During her time in Alberta, she earned a Business Management Diploma from Keyano College and completed a Technical Writing course at the University of Alberta.

She started working as a land code development coordinator for Alderville First Nation in 2021. The previous land manager, Philip Beaver, who is an alumnus of the KA program, recommended it to George.

“This program gave me the opportunity to work on assignments in synch with current action items in the office such as completing a community engagement plan, business proposal, testing areas of concern for contamination, and writing history profiles for the community,” said George.

The blended learning model of the KA Certificate accommodates the professional work lives of students. Students travel to the USask Saskatoon campus three times a year for two weeks of in-person instruction, field trips, and laboratory work. The students then return home for 7-10 weeks of remote study.

“I very much loved the hybrid courses as I was able to see everything the University of Saskatchewan provides its students with as well as studies at home so I can continue working at my office at my own pace,” said George.

Two courses that stood out to George were Introduction to Legal Concepts in Resource Management taught by Kaitlyn Harvey and Field Studies in the Environment taught by Dr. Melissa Arcand (PhD).

“Seeing law focused on Indigenous concepts was very eye opening!” said George. “The field studies course was very immersive. We visited Mistawasis First Nation and Muskeg Lake Cree Nation where they showed us their natural grasslands and community gardens.

George excelled academically and was awarded the CIBC Indigenous Student Award to the top Kanawayihetaytan Askiy Graduate.

“My sister who passed away from cancer in 2021 was a large influence for me in completing the KA program,” said George. “She was heavily involved in her Indigenous culture, gardening, archaeology, soil, traditional medicines, harvesting, and pretty much anything outdoors and under the sun. So, I feel her presence in this program, and how much she would have loved it too. It connected me with her.”

George now has a new role as the land manager for Alderville First Nation. She is also considering completing the Level Two: Technical Training of the National Aboriginal Land Managers Association’s (NALMA) Professional Lands Management Certificate program (which the KA Certificate meets the prerequisites for). 

“I have learned a lot in the KA program, and it was empowering to voice my knowledge,” said George. “My future plans are to continue to work as Alderville First Nation’s new land manager and to implement new land code initiatives for my community”.

Together, we will work towards Truth and Reconciliation. We invite you to join by supporting Indigenous achievement at USask.