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NU student earns Imagine a Canada award
University is a time of self-discovery, where new ideas and perspectives mix with a growing sense of political engagement and understanding of culture and one’s place in it. For first-year student Sasha Ekomiak it has already been an incredible journey that has helped her to heal and embrace her culture, and also bring home an Imagine a Canada award for her art.
Ekomiak, studying Biology with minors in Native Studies and Gender Equality and Social Justice, earned the award for her submission (see above) depicting negative stereotypes faced by Indigenous peoples as well as the positive and hopeful campfire of inclusivity.
She is one of 10 recipients in Ontario for Imagine a Canada and will now compete in the national Imagine a Canada competition in June.
The success is extra sweet for Ekomiak, who admits to having a difficult time as the school year was beginning. An Inuk woman, from Elliot Lake and Chisasibi, Quebec, she was struggling with mental illness and often felt spiritually lost.
“My Gender class was discussing Residential Schools and missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and it was taking a serious toll on me. I was crying after every class. Thankfully, I went to the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives at Nipissing and began meeting regularly with an elder who smudged with me and really helped me to embrace my culture and get inspired,” she said.
“I’m really thankful that Nipissing has support for Indigenous students and hosts cultural events like powwows. It has really helped me to heal and grow. I’m grateful for the professors and people who work at Nipissing, everyone is so supportive and it’s such a tight-knit campus. I’m certainly glad I chose to attend Nipissing.”
Imagine a Canada is a national arts and communications initiative that invites young people to share their thoughts on what the future of Canada will look like through the lens of reconciliation.
“It’s important that we heal ourselves to stop the cycle of abuse and negativity. Imagine a Canada is a great way to inspire and educate children; art is fantastic for expressing your beliefs,” said Ekomiak. “I hope my award inspires other indigenous youth to take a stand and to know that their thoughts and beliefs matter. They do make a difference.”
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