For Jamie Ahksistowaki Medicine Crane (BEd '05) the University of Lethbridge is as much a part of the southern Alberta landscape as the fescue grasses that blanket the coulees.
"This is traditional Blackfoot territory and I’m very proud to say that I am Blackfoot. Growing up I always told myself I want to graduate from the University of Lethbridge," says Medicine Crane, who planned to follow in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother. "And I said I want to graduate from the University of Lethbridge before it falls into the Old Man River."
And she did. And we’re all still here.
"It’s such a beautiful campus and it’s grown so much since I left," says Medicine Crane, joking aside.
While campus has flourished in the years since she was a U of L student, so has Medicine Crane. Currently, a curriculum consultant for the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Division for Alberta Education, Medicine Crane is a well-respected specialist in Indigenous education, working to build the capacity of educators, developing curriculum and helping improve the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
"As a student, I had the opportunity to express myself, especially as an Indigenous woman," she explains. "It gave me the self-confidence to go out into the world and share the experiences and teachings I benefitted from with the people I’ve encountered in my journey since."
Deeply engaged in her community, Medicine Crane leads by example and encourages others to live in harmony and respect one another.
"Be proud of who you are and be proud of where you come from," she says, repeating the advice she was given growing up. "Be proud of all those people who helped you get where you wanted to go."
That includes her family and friends, as well as the alumni community who honoured Medicine Crane as the 2017 Alumna of the Year.
"Being surrounded by other people who went to university here feels like an extended family," says Medicine Crane on the award. She admits the experience is humbling and was quick to recognize that her own journey wouldn’t have been possible without those who went before her.
"They've contributed so much to our university and I want to thank them. Thank you so much for believing in Iniskim," says Medicine Crane, referencing the U of L's official Blackfoot name, Sacred Buffalo Stone.
The name, gifted to the University in 2002 by Elder Bruce Wolf Child, is significant for Medicine Crane. Since we opened our doors 50 years ago, Indigenous culture has been woven into the fabric of our university, enriching programming, teaching and research, and creating an environment where students find community, support and success.
"Growing up, it was hard not seeing myself represented but that changed when I got here. Indigenous voices are respected at the U of L and an important part of the education system," she explains. "As a student, I felt surrounded by the teachings of my grandmother and my ancestors, and I can still feel them all around us. They're proud of all the people who have gone through this university and made it their own."
Medicine Crane was honoured in October at Let There Be Light Night alongside other 2017 Alumni Recognition Award winners. She performed a traditional honour song for the University as part of her acceptance speech. To listen press the PLAY button below.