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GDI 40th Anniversary: In Their Own Words…

By James Oloo

Mar 19, 2020

Posted in: ,

Many words were spoken during the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) 40th Anniversary Celebrations, February 6-8, 2020, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. A sample is presented below.


“Traditionally, academia has been a violent space for Indigenous peoples. However, the work GDI does is helping to shift that narrative. They (GDI) educate, they change people’s material circumstances by giving them an education and jobs …. We’re using those institutions as places of refuge, restoring language, restoring culture. It’s a revolutionary kind of place.” – Jesse Thistle, Métis author and bestselling author.


“My Dad was a trapper who could not read or write. Each time he came home after selling fur in the city, he brought crayons, pencils and books. He said education was important for Métis people. With education we take our place in the society. Métis people are in a strong place today because of education and because of GDI.” – Maria Campbell, Métis Elder, author, broadcaster and filmmaker.


“We remember that there were leaders who did so much before us who did the heavy lifting to ensure that we have a Métis institution. We respect their hard work and sacrifice.” – Geordy McCaffrey, Executive Director, Gabriel Dumont Institute.


“The journey started for me when I ran 115Km marathon in three days to raise funds and awareness around MMIWG. As an Indigenous person, you don’t just represent yourself. You represent the whole community, the whole nation. This award is very humbling. I am the first member of my community to be honoured. I come here as one and stand as 10,000. This is for my community.” – Tracie Léost, Student, Gabriel Dumont College/ University of Regina, and 2020 Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Award recipient.


“Without GDI, I would not be here today. They made education accessible and affordable, and have been with me from day one. I am grateful for GDI.” – Darren Quaal, Heavy Duty Mechanic, Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways, and 2020 Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Award recipient.


“Métis spirit is focused on entrepreneurship, and it is something GDI caters to. GDI gives Métis people a hand-up to succeed. People at GDI are there to ensure that Métis people are successful. I am currently working with GDI to set up a scholarship for Métis students.” – Dylan Smart, Founder and CEO, Smartpath Safety Systems, former GDI client, and 2020 Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Award recipient.


“It is because of the Métis community that we succeed. GDI is one of a kind success in Canada. Thousands of lives have been changed for the better because of GDI. We have provided a prototype for other Métis organizations that would like to follow suit.” – Karon Shmon, Director, Métis Culture and Heritage Department, GDI.


“GDI has come a long way over the past 40 years. Prior to 1980, the notion that Métis wanted to control their education, and that they wanted to incorporate Métis culture in education was foreign to political leadership at the time. There was a lot of resistance and skepticism. I wrote a book about GDI and Métis education. The book came out in 2012. A lot has happened since then.” – Lisa Bird-Wilson, Director, GDI.


“I think my most important point was the work GDI has done in the community. They never work alone. They work in partnership with their people and it’s a cultural way of doing things for us. 40 years ago you could have counted on your hand the amount of (Métis) people who had university degrees. I’m sure that nearly everybody in that room has a university degree. I think we are in a good place because of GDI. With education we take our place in society and coming from that place of strength, we’re able to work with non-Indigenous people to make change. I just get emotional when I think how powerful it is.” – Maria Campbell, Métis Elder, author, broadcaster and filmmaker.

Ashley Smith receiving the Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Award. © Gabriel Dumont Institute.

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