A long standing tradition of service in the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation (BOFN) will carry on.
The first military co-op program between the Canadian Armed Forces, the Constable Robin Cameron Education Complex and the Stobart High School concluded June 16.
In total, 12 students graduated from the inaugural cooperative program; six from the Robin Cameron Education Complex and six from Stobart High School. Four students will continue on to basic infantry training.
Twyla Gamble was one of these students. She was proud to comple the basic military qualification as it was following in her grandfather’s footsteps.
“One of the best experiences I think I’m ever going to have in my life is joining the military,” Gamble said. “It helped me see all these different accomplishments that people make and they don’t really get recognized for. It made me a more respectful person.”
Gamble was one of two female graduates from the program and was recognized as the top candidate. She said the award was based on showing leadership, being dependable to the core staff and showing great improvement.
The most difficult aspect of the program for Gamble was giving up her responsibilities to sport. She will not be able to attend her next training program until the summer of 2018, as she will participate in the North American Indigenous Games in Mississauga, Ont. later this summer.
Gamble was a last minute entry to the program; despite not knowing anyone else who was going through the basic military qualifications, she said one of the most valuable things the program gave her was friendship.
“I feel like I can depend on them and trust them if I’m ever in a bad situation,” she said. “I know that they’re always going to be there. We all got through this hard time together.”
BOFN Chief Roy Petit was among the dignitaries in attendance for graduation. As he addressed the class, he said watching the students on parade brought a tear to his eye.
“You guys are leaders. This program is the first of its kind, you guys are leaders in that fact, and you guys will be leaders in the future, I’m sure,” Petit said. “I’m so very proud of you, and I know your parents are proud of you.”
Petit said he had a very small role to play in the creation of the program; he worked with Sheldon Couillonneur among others to get the initial discussions going four years ago.
Couillonneur said the graduation ceremony was a great example of reconciliation between Indigenous people and the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Beardy’s got a little bit out of this but I know the Armed Forces got a lot out of this too,” he said. “The relationship with the armed forces has not always been positive; we have a positive relationship here … and it’s led by youth.”
The graduation ceremony was part military display, part cultural celebration. The entrance parade was accompanied by the sound of a drum and followed by a smudge, which every student and dignitary participated in.
Couillonneur said the program will continue at the Robin Cameron Education Complex along with expansions in Prince Albert at Wesmor Community High School and in Saskatoon at the E.D. Feehan Catholic High School. Options are still being explored in the Regina area for the possibility of such a program.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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