Four smiling students at award ceremony.
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They are leading: RBC Neekaneewak Award recognizes Indigenous student leaders

15 April 2024
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Strength, self-confidence, and pride emanated from the four student winners of this year’s RBC Neekaneewak Leadership Awards ceremony, on Friday, April 12.

“We created the awards with the support of RBC to really showcase the strengths, the development, and all the potential career paths for our Indigenous students on campus,” said John Bird, manager of the ta-tawâw Student Centre. “The awards build self-confidence and show Indigenous students on campus that they can all be leaders in their own right.”

People seated at dining tables listening to speaker.
John Bird, manager of the ta-tawâw Student Centre, welcomed guests to the RBC Neekaneewak Leadership Awards and ceremony. Credit: Peter Scoular Photography.

The Neekaneewak (they are leading) Leadership Initiative is an Elder-based leadership program run by the ta-tawâw Student Centre at the U of R. The Initiative enhances cultural awareness and develops leadership skills in student participants through traditional and current ways of knowing. The awards recognize Indigenous students who have demonstrated leadership in their academic, personal, and professional lives.

Every year, four students are selected as winners of the RBC Neekaneewak Leadership Awards in four areas of student leadership development. The award categories are Academic Development, Community/Personal Development, Professional Development, and Cultural Development.

Camryn Murray, Academic Leadership

Camryn Murray, a passionate learner and third-year education student in the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP), took home the Academic Leadership award for her academic excellence and leadership in elementary education. “I’m currently working with a very young grade and I love being part of their growth and development,” said Camryn, who is Métis. “I hope to leave a mark, to have them feel like they belong in my classroom, because I didn’t necessarily get that growing up in a small, very conservative town.”

I’d like to say to RBC that we’re really grateful as students and community helpers to have this award and to have our work recognized. It’s going to change my life, actually … I’ll have an education that no one can take away from me. Brittany Poitras, winner of the Community/Personal Leadership award

Brittany Poitras, Community/Personal Leadership

Described as a “great big spitfire,” Brittany Poitras of Peepeekisis First Nation received the Community/Personal Leadership award for her community involvement and advocacy for change. Brittany is studying Indigenous Studies and Justice Studies at the First Nations University of Canada and pursuing a diploma in Indigenous Journalism and Communications. Using her passion for politics and policy, Brittany brings attention to Indigenous issues and shares Indigenous perspectives in the media. “I’d like to say to RBC that we’re really grateful as students and community helpers to have this award and to have our work recognized,” said Poitras. “It’s going to change my life, actually, so I’ll have a new trajectory through school that the RBC Neekaneewak Leadership Award will be paying for. I’ll have an education that no one can take away from me.”

Jordynn Pewapsconias, Professional Leadership

Fourth-year U of R student Jordynn Pewapsconias of Keeseekoose First Nation was awarded the Professional Leadership award for her work to motivate and inspire Indigenous youth to participate in sport. “Sport is really what got me into education. I want to be an inspiration and a change-maker in the sport industry for Indigenous youth,” said Jordynn, who played competitive softball and volleyball in high school and currently works as the Indigenous Student & Youth Engagement Intern in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Leadership, to me, is not just leading people. It’s about bringing people with you, pushing them forward, as well.”

Jesse Kitchemonia, Cultural Leadership

Through her studies of the Buffalo People at First Nations University of Canada, Jesse Kitchemonia is reclaiming and bringing back the lost art of traditional hide tanning to her home community of Key First Nation. Jesse is in her fourth year of her Indigenous Studies degree. She received the Cultural Leadership award and is harnessing this experience to discover different ways of using her learning to teach the next generation of hide tanners and build her own practice doing something she really loves.

Smiling student is presented with a star blanket.
Jesse Kitchemonia was honoured with a star blanket presented by kokum Brenda Dubois at the leadership ceremony. Credit: Peter Scoular Photography.

“I am so proud to celebrate and honour these four tremendous leaders with their families and communities,” said Lori Campbell, AVP Indigenous Engagement, University of Regina. “The RBC Neekaneewak Awards reflect the leadership journey of each nominee and showcases to every Indigenous student the strength of leadership that is inherent within them. These leadership traits are discovered and built at every stage of their journey at the University of Regina, First Nations University of Canada, and all of our partner colleges and campuses.”

In recognition of their leadership, award recipients each received a $5,000 award and a gift box from RBC, as well as a Star Blanket from the ta-tawâw Student Centre, which was presented by kokum Brenda Dubois. 

"We are confident, that guided by a rich tapestry of Indigenous knowledge and heritage, each RBC Neekaneewak Leadership award winner will find continued success making positive impacts in our communities," said Jon Barth, RBC Regional Vice President, Southern Saskatchewan. "Congratulations to this year’s winners – thank you for setting a shining example for all of us."

Interested in applying for a RBC Neekaneewak Leadership award or nominating a student? Learn more through the ta-tawâw Student Centre.

Banner photo: From L to R Jesse Kitchemonia, Camryn Murray, Brittany Poitras, and Jordynn Pewapsconias were recognized at the 2024 RBC Neekaneewak Leadership Awards ceremony on April 12 for their unique leadership traits, community involvement, and academic journeys. Credit: Peter Scoular Photography.

About the University of Regina

2024 marks our 50th anniversary as an independent University (although our roots as Regina College date back more than a century!). As we celebrate our past, we work towards a future that is as limitless as the prairie horizon. We support the health and well-being of our 16,700 students and provide them with hands-on learning opportunities to develop career-ready graduates. Our research enterprise has grown to include 21 research centres and 12 Canada Research Chairs and brings in more than $51.2 million in funding annually. Our campuses are on Treaties 4 and 6 - the territories of the nêhiyawak, Anihšināpēk, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda peoples, and the homeland of the Michif/Métis nation. We seek to grow our relationships with Indigenous communities to build a more inclusive future.

Let’s go far, together.