Student Type: Indigenous Award Recipient

Jamie Coukell

I am Gitxsan from Gitanyow on my mom’s side, and I have mixed settler ancestry on my Dad’s side. I grew up on Snaw’ naw’ territory on Vancouver Island. I have always been very close with my family. My grandparents lived next door to us. My grandma (“Geets” in our language) would always have a planned lesson ready for us after school. I remember hating it as a kid, and just wanting to play after school. But in time, I realized the love behind it. After the traumatic history of education in Indigenous communities, Geets saw it as a huge privilege for us. So, I am so grateful to her now.

And I love spending time with my grandparents. If they’re sick, I take care of them. I felt so much care from them growing up. I learned that everyone benefits and feels good in that kind of environment. So I really like caring for people now. That’s why I chose Kinesiology for my career, because of its ability to help people live healthy lives. I’m in my third year at UBC now.

I started getting more in touch more with my Indigenous roots in high school and found a lot of great resources for Indigenous students, including Scholarships and Awards. So, applied to some of them, and when I received the Indigenous Award from the BC Scholarship Society, it was such a gift. And it  gave me an opportunity to reflect on my journey. I realized helping others fills my cup. My great-great-grandfather has a saying in our language that translates to, “To be good, is to do good.” If you’re a good person and have a kind heart, and you share that kindness with others, you will do good in life.

I think it’s really important to give back. It seems like we’re living in a time where society almost encourages us to be selfish sometimes, and healthcare isn’t delivered the way it used to be. We’re losing that selflessness of care. So, I love that caring and the giving of gifts is so important in my community.  My grandma taught me to never say no if somebody offers me something. Because giving is a sign of Love. That you care.

And I want to devote my life to giving and loving through my work in healthcare.

Logan Burd

Taanishi Logan Burd dishinihkaashoon (Hello my name is Logan Burd)

I am a proud Métis Citizen of Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC), with mixed Blackfoot, Cree, and European ancestry. I am honoured to have grown up and live on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan Peoples, colonially known as Kelowna, BC. I am a member of the Métis Charted Community, the Kelowna Métis Association. As a Métis youth, woman, and community member, I am actively involved as a founding member of the Métis Mental Health and Wellness Committee and as a Métis Youth Advisory Committee member for the Ooma La Michinn (Here is Medicine) Life Promotion Project through MNBC. One of the most vital aspects that connects me to my community is a deep understanding of the importance of reciprocity, relationality and honouring my ancestors.

I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) in 2020. I then entered a Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in 2021. Before beginning my MPH program, I applied for an Indigenous Award through the BC Scholarship Society to assist me in paying my tuition, textbook fees, and living expenses. I am beyond grateful to have received this award, as it has significantly helped me reach my goals of graduating from the MPH program and continuing my educational journey of pursuing a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies – Community Engagement, Social Change, Equity Theme at UBCO.

While completing the MPH program, I collaboratively learned and worked with Indigenous Scholars and mentors at SFU, who inspired me to pursue Indigenous health research further. During my master’s, I spent a significant amount of time in community learning our Southern Michif language and teachings from Elders. For the first time, I felt a true sense of wholeness, as if I had been “called home.”  As a research assistant, I was fortunate to have gained experience in community-based and Indigenous health research for the first time. My experiences, connections and guidance from community and supportive mentors inspired me to become a doctoral student focused on centering Métis youth voices in community-driven research around mental wellness and life promotion.

In community, I feel at home and have a strong sense of pride and belonging. Everyone has a vital role in our community, and it is beautiful for youth voices to be uplifted and honored. Every voice matters whether you are a child or an Elder. My family, ancestors and community have been instrumental in helping me along this journey. I applied for and received the Indigenous Award three times, helping to support me throughout my two-year MPH program at SFU and for the first year of my doctoral program at UBCO. I am very appreciative of the BC Scholarship Society’s continued support.

Maarsii (Thank You)

Sherri Marino

I am Esk’etemc First Nations from Alkali Lake, BC. Born in 1974. I was raised in Williams Lake. Like many First Nations families, we faced challenges including domestic violence and substance misuse. After the tragic death of my brother, my mother, sister, and I moved to the Lower Mainland in my teen years. I found myself struggling with my identity and turning to alcohol. After dropping out of high school and becoming a parent, I faced personal turmoil.

My mother intervened, taking custody of my child, and with unwavering support from my family, I recovered in the following years. I learned I had many skills. I earned my carpentry apprenticeship and excelled in hospitality. Following my mother’s passing in 2019, I pursued studies at Native Education College, reconnecting with my Indigenous identity. Graduating from the diploma program in 2023, I have entered my third year at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, working towards a bachelor’s degree in Indigenous social work.

Financial support, especially the BC Scholarship Society’s Indigenous Award, has been instrumental in my academic journey, alleviating post-secondary financial burdens. I am so grateful for the unexpected blessings that come when we trust our hearts on this journey. We all have a journey to follow, everything happens when it is supposed to, and when we trust our hearts, sometimes what comes back…. are blessings that we did not expect.

Naskwaw Laframboise

IN HIS OWN WORDS:   I was born in 1987, to a Scotch/Irish mother and Cree/Metis father, but raised by my mother and white stepfather in an abusive household. Growing up, I experienced racism from both sides as a person of mixed ancestry. So, I ended up getting pulled in different directions. I didn’t find out until I was an adult that my real father had been fighting for custody in court my entire childhood. As a child, I tried to avoid my native ancestry, because I’d been taught it was something to be ashamed of.

But when I got older, I decided I wanted to reconnect with my father and heritage. I was able to track down a phone number for him, but I was worried about calling my father, I was afraid to scare him off. All I knew was that he had a criminal record and was a 60’s scoop survivor, and had been through foster homes as a child. So, making contact was a difficult and fragile process. But it was incredibly healing to meet him and learn about his journey and struggles and visit the places where our family had fought with Louis Riel in the Northwest Rebellion, and afterwards had our family status stripped away through the scrip system.

All these things influenced my desire to pursue my educational path, and study language. My father and I grew up only speaking English, because we were removed from our family and placed into white English-speaking homes. But our ancestors spoke Cree and French. A big part of my journey to reclaim my heritage was to re-learn the languages of my ancestors. Rebuilding that within my family has given me a passion to help other people reclaim their heritages as well. So, I knew I wanted to go to university and make it my life’s work. I just didn’t know how to make that educational dream a reality.

But after suffering a debilitating workplace accident, I had a lot of time to think about my future. I started saving and went to Douglas College to update my transcripts, to be accepted to UBC. But when COVID hit, classes shut down, and my savings slowly drained away. When classes started again, I took out student loans and worked my butt off. I got straight A’s and was accepted to the linguistics department at UBC.

Now I was one step closer to my dream. But the financial struggle was wearing me down. Then advisors at university encouraged me to apply for the Indigenous Student Award. They were optimistic, but I still couldn’t believe it when I got accepted. This award has made such a huge difference to me. Because student loans don’t provide enough for students to survive. With COVID and inflation, costs have doubled. Rents are skyrocketing. Food, gas, everything has gone through the roof. So, I was really penny pinching. Having to make decisions, like, “Do I eat breakfast or lunch today, or not?” So this award has given me room to breathe. To focus on my studies, instead of wondering where my next meal is going to come from. So, if you’re thinking about it, I’d encourage you to apply. You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

These days, I’m really focused and excited about revitalization efforts for indigenous languages. Right now, for example, there are zero Canadian indigenous languages on duo lingo. But there are so many indigenous languages being documented and archived that don’t get utilized by platforms for the masses. So I’d like to make them available through technologies like Duo Lingo. To use the tools of the present, to bring the past alive. To help other people regain their heritage and pride.


Katelyn Derhousoff


I was born in Nelson, BC 25 years ago, to an Indigenous (Cree) mom and Doukobor Dad. I look more Caucasian than Indigenous, so people have doubted my heritage all my life. My parents separated when I was 2, and then my mom and I moved around a lot. When I was 12, I felt like I needed more stability. So, I moved back with my Dad to be close to friends and finish school. But my dad is very critical, so it was tough. After high school, I went to UBC to take Aboriginal Studies, but I wasn’t ready for the experience, and dropped out after 3 years; feeling lost, self-critical, and like a failure.

When the COVID-19 Pandemic came, I went back to the Kootenays, but found myself living in a trailer, and in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic. That was my lowest point. I was desperate. Traumatized. When I finally managed to free myself from that relationship, I reached out for help, and got counseling and slowly I began to heal, to rebuild. And from the ashes I felt a desire growing inside me; a desire to take the pain from my experience and turn it into a positive force. To change myself. To help others.

So, I took a training course to be a counselor. When I finished the course, I found work at a transition house. And that is where the light bulb really switched on for me. I was so moved by hearing people’s stories. To help them feel safe, sheltered, validated. Then a counselor at Selkirk College encouraged me to apply for an Indigenous Student Award. So, I applied, and was awarded 3,000 dollars by the BC Scholarship Society! That blew me away. It meant so much more than money. It meant finally being recognized as Indigenous.  That has been incredibly heartwarming. The Award has also helped me pursue my studies in family dynamics, addiction, social policy, and psychology, and my long-term goal of working as a sexual trauma and couples therapy counselor.

To anyone reading this, I would tell you… don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We are here to learn, to grow. The most powerful lesson I’ve learned, is I can have stability without abuse. You have all the solutions to your own questions inside yourself, and within your community. Find your direction, your inspiration. And, the BC Scholarship Society and its Indigenous Award Program, like others, can help those dreams come true.


Leah Alfred-Olmedo

Leah Alfred-Olmedo is a second-year master’s degree student studying English literature at the University of British Columbia. Her primary research interests are in Indigenous literature.    She is both First Nations and a settler and describes herself as half Kwakwaka’wakw and half Canadian.  

For Leah, being a recipient of the BC Indigenous Student Award means having the liberty to focus on studies rather than scrambling to pay tuition.  She reports that she found the application process quite easy, especially the renewal process: “It is difficult to find funding as a student returning to studies after having previously completed other degrees, so I am exceedingly grateful to the award for their support.” 

 Port Hardy and Alert Bay are Leah’s hometowns, and says she went into the English department because one particularly passionate professor and one supportive teacher’s assistant shared with her their passion for English literature. 

I have loved literature since high school and when my studies are finished, I will continue to share the wealth of literature being created by Indigenous peoples through teaching,” Leah shared with us.