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Just a few days after finishing my Masters degree (back in late January), my thesis was nominated for an award. Two days ago, I heard back from the Canadian Association of Teacher Education notifying me that my thesis was chosen for one of the awards! I would like to thank my supervisor, Dr. Randy Wimmer, who provided guidance and support throughout my program; and once again thank my dearest friend, Felice Gladue who worked with me on this project and contributed her own stories and insights to the work!

There are a few reasons why this recognition award is so deeply gratifying and I thought I would share these with you:

All creative lives have seasons and we must learn to weather them. ~Julia Cameron

First, I remember back when I was a brand new graduate student, I had read a very inspiring article written by a Cree scholar named Willie Ermine. As I read the references, I saw that this article was actually an excerpt from his award-winning Masters thesis. At the time, I didn’t even know that a student could win an award for their dissertation. When I read ‘award-winning’, immediately there was a statement present in my mind: “I’m going to win an award.” It wasn’t a greedy, hungry for fame and accolades kind of statement. It was just a calm inner knowing. Like, “I’m going to have tuna for lunch.”

I read a quote somewhere that when you are attracted to a particular greatness in another human being (i.e. writing, or music, or skills in sports, or tight-rope walking), it is because you yourself are capable of this kind of greatness in your own being and in your unique expression in the world. As I worked on my thesis over the years, even when it was difficult at times, I always had this image in my mind of completing the work and winning an award.

What you react to in another, you strengthen in yourself ~Eckart Tolle

Second, just finishing this work was a major undertaking, culminating in five years of what felt like repeated ‘failed attempts’. I started as a full time student and then switched to part time in order to work. Over the next three years, I went through many dramatic life changes: a serious year-long illness, quitting my ‘stable’ job the the federal government, a separation and divorce, three moves (finally to this cabin!) and a few unsuccessful attempts at new relationships. In addition to these emotional adjustments, my thesis challenged the very core of who I was. I was writing from within an Indigenous Research Methodology, which meant that I couldn’t just write flowery words and phrases about my values and beliefs… I had to live them, and embody them in my research. This is the Indigenous way.

I will write myself into well-being. ~Natalie Goldberg

So I had to figure out what this meant for me and it took a while for everything to finally crumble all around me. But when it did and the dust settled, I found myself here at the cabin surrounded by the stillness of the lake and natural world, which became just the medicine that I needed. I spent many days just sitting quietly in the woods. Finally one day, I just felt better! And in that moment, I simply stood up, sat down at my computer and began to rewrite my entire thesis until it was finished… Yes, it took five years in total to finish my program. But apparently, that was exactly the length of time it required for me to go through all of the emotional, intellectual and academic processes.

It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to the real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. ~Wendell Berry

Third, winning this award thrills me as I hope it will help further my goal of helping other Aboriginal teachers who may feel isolated or discouraged as I did when I was new. This work is written for those teachers (as well as non-Aboriginal teachers who are sympathetic to our unique issues and challenges) and perhaps the extra bit of attention that it receives from winning this award might help it get into the hands of those who might benefit from reading it. In fact, it is ‘the book I wished I had‘ when I was new and struggling. So, it now exists for someone else and I hope that it helps to bring health, healing, encouragement and empowerment to others!

In my life’s chain of events nothing was accidental. Everything happened according to an inner need. ~Hannah Senesh

I am not one to ‘toot my own horn’, but I wanted to share this bit of my life and struggle and finally… success! So many of you have written in with encouraging words and support. I have no doubt that many of you can identify with my personal struggle and those dark times when you just have to take it one day at a time, trusting that guidance and direction will appear eventually!

So along with this award, I raise a glass in celebration of our collective hopes, dreams, goals, passions and unique contributions to the world! I celebrate perseverance, commitment, courage, and self-expression. I celebrate life, surprises and miracles!

Cheers, everyone!

You already possess all the inner wisdom, strength and creativity needed to make your dreams come true. ~Susan Breathnach