Verna Kirkness [B.A. 1974, B.Ed. 1976, M.Ed. 1980, LL.D., 2008]

Verna Kirkness

Fisher River Cree Nation
Member of the Order of Manitoba (2007) and the Order of Canada (1998)
Award winning scholar, educator, administrator and author, she is a national leader in education, and the recipient of several honorary degrees

What inspires you?
At my age, I am most inspired when I meet my former students that I have taught, counselled or mentored in some way who continued on to further education and/or training and are working in various capacities to serve not only our own people but the general population as well. I grew up at a time when we had very few, if any, Aboriginal teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, administrators, journeyman painters, carpenters, politicians and the list goes on. Today, our people are represented in all walks of life as is so well demonstrated by the Indspire Program. I'm inspired by the progress of the younger generation who view their role as one of moving forward, determined and dedicated to ensuring a better life for our people.

What is your advice to current Indigenous university students and the 2014 Indigenous graduates of the University of Manitoba?
To the 2014 graduates of the University of Manitoba, congratulations, ekosi, you have done well. This, however, is not the end, it is just the beginning. You may be the first in your family to get a university degree and now that you have made that breakthrough, others in your family will likely follow in your footsteps. You are a role model! As you venture into your chosen profession, always remember where you came from and remain true to yourself and your people. You will face challenges that may tempt you to compromise your principles (your culture and beliefs) in order to get ahead. You will have to choose wisely. I wish you success!

To the current students, your graduation is in sight. While as the days, weeks, months and even years go by, I'm sure there are times when you ask yourself, “What am I doing here? Well, let me tell you, you are where you should be, getting an education that will allow you to live a life of independence and even freedom. You are pursuing a dream, one that I hope you are passionate about. I sometimes try to imagine what it would be like to go to a job every day to do something you don't like. As students, take it one day at a time, learning is a privilege, enjoy it and we'll see you at a future graduation pow-wow.

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