TO CHANTELLE CHARTIER, being part of a connected community is essential for Indigenous university students.
“The Indigenous community on campus is strong and resilient,” she said. “By sharing our stories and drawing from our strengths, we build bridges that connect ourselves to each other. It helps reaffirm that we’re not alone.”
Chartier was one of two fourth-year nursing students honoured at the U of M’s third annual Indigenous Awards of Excellence, presented by the Office of Indigenous Engagement during Indigenous Awareness Month in March.
She received an outstanding achievement award for attaining a high academic standing while advancing Indigenous engagement. Over the last four years, she participated in initiatives such as Orange Shirt Day (raising awareness of the legacy of residential schools) and the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences’ Habitat for Humanity build. She also mentored inner-city youth at the faculty’s Biomedical Youth Program summer camp.
Chartier travelled in for the awards ceremony from her hometown of Thompson, Man., where she was completing her senior practicum in the Northern Health Region’s diabetes program. She said one of her top career goals is to provide accessible nursing care in the North, where people regularly face barriers to health care.
“Some services are only available in urban centres, so northern residents have to leave their family in order to access medical care hundreds of kilometres away, which can be very disruptive and traumatic,” she said. “By practising in Thompson, I was able to work within my community and strive to be a part of the solution.”
Fourth-year nursing student Lauressa Garson, who calls Tataskweyak Cree Nation home, was recognized at the ceremony for her work promoting a positive, respectful learning environment. She said the awards help to strengthen ties within the university’s greater Indigenous community, not just in one college or faculty. “
Awards like this bridge the gap between students, staff and faculty, and across different disciplines,” she said.
In her time at the U of M, Garson contributed to strategic planning for the Aboriginal Nursing Cohort Initiative (ANCI), volunteered for the Graduation Pow Wow, and was a key organizer of Orange Shirt Day. She was noted for assisting non-Indigenous students in their understanding of colonization and its effects on health outcomes.
Garson also sees providing care in the North as a vital part of her career. A research assistant for a project that focuses on mental health promotion and suicide prevention in northern Manitoba, she is completing her practicum at Thompson General Hospital’s mental health unit.
“I put my efforts to what I hold to be important,” she said. “Mental health is something that is essential, but lacking in the North. It’s a very real problem.”
Audrey Richard [BSW/05, M.Ed./12], academic advisor at the College of Nursing, was honoured with a staff community builder award for her work with nursing students. Richard is instrumental in organizing orientation week for new ANCI students. She works closely with the Access Program, Indigenous Student Centre and Ongomiizwin, the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing.
“It really is a privilege to work with these students – amazing students like Chantelle and Lauressa – and see them succeeding and working so hard,” Richard said.
Dr. Netha Dyck [BN/88], dean of the College of Nursing, said the exceptional contributions of Richard, Garson and Chartier create a positive and supportive learning environment.
“Their passion and active engagement related to cultural safety are inspiring,” she said.
In total, 10 students, staff and faculty were recognized at the ceremony. Each honoree received a framed certificate and a star blanket – a traditional gift of honour – created by Corinne Stevens-Belanger of Cree Star Gifts.
BY ALAN MACKENZIE