When Eeetoomoo (The One Who Leads), Bernard White Man Left III was a young boy, he didn’t dream of accomplishing all that he has done in his 26 years of life. Now, with a Faculty of Arts & Science Certificate of Achievement from the University of Lethbridge, and a thriving network of connections built through his engagement in ULethbridge activities, Bernard has proven unstoppable in achieving his goals.
One thing that's going to stick with me forever is knowing that I could, and I couldn't before, meaning that throughout my life I was told that I wasn't able to be a functioning human being. Just knowing that I was able to attend university, and all the connections I've made on campus, I will have for the rest of my life. What the ULethbridge gave me, I will continue to carry with me now until forever.
As a child, Bernard was named Taawwtsskeepooyii (Standing in the Middle) and was taught that Blackfoot men are given four names throughout their lives – one as a child, one as a young adult, one as an adult and one as an old man. When he graduated from Kainai High School in 2014, Bernard was gifted with a headdress and a new name —Eeetoomoo (The One Who Leads). “That name is very special to me,” says Bernard. “It is carrying me, and it will continue carrying me into my next phase of existence.” It is a fitting name for Bernard, who consistently knocks down every barrier he has come to face. He has grown to become an inspirational leader known around the ULethbridge campus and southern Alberta community for his quick wit and sparkling personality.
When Bernard began his ULethbridge journey, he considered himself “a big psych nerd,” which followed him after achieving a Certificate of Achievement in Psychology at Lethbridge College in 2019. “That's how I fell in love with the mind and the aspect of psychology overall,” says Bernard. “The mind really intrigued me. It still does. But at this point in time, I realized that there is much more than just the mind; there's a lot more aspects to life in general.” So, Bernard expanded his horizons and began to take classes such as philosophy, sociology, history and Indigenous studies, which he says taught him about other Indigenous cultures outside of his own Blackfoot upbringing.
When he first arrived on campus, Bernard says he found himself, again, outside of his comfort zone. It was a big campus where he didn’t know anyone or what to expect. “But then, over time, I got my bearings,” says Bernard, and he quickly built relationships across campus, even when it was challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The one thing that I've always told myself is don't let anyone tell you that you can't because you know in your heart, mind and soul three things — push, push, push down those barriers.
When he wasn’t busy studying, Bernard kept busy with a variety of extracurricular activities. He currently hosts two radio shows on the University’s independent station CKXU 88.3 FM, God of Destruction with DJ B, where the two talk about video games, books and pop culture, and Brainwaves, which focuses on the inner workings of the brain. Bernard also worked as the event coordinator for the ULethbridge GEEK Club, and he serves as a director on CKXU’s Board of Directors, a position he will maintain for one more year. “I've really enjoyed being a part of that,” says Bernard. “And I used to dislike giving presentations. I really did in college, but since I started my radio shows and having to talk freely, I'm able to do that now.”
In February, Bernard was invited to be a keynote speaker at a diversity, equity and inclusion conference, and he recently spoke with students at a Blood Tribe Employment and Skills Training (BTEST) conference. Bernard says he was shocked when he was asked to present, but that it was a humbling experience because he had the opportunity to share his story. “The title of my presentation was ‘Walking through Resiliency.’ I spoke about how I faced adversity in my life and how I pushed forward because I'm not one to back down on anything,” says Bernard, who aims to inspire and motivate others. “Being a motivational speaker is something that I’ll be able to help students and people that are struggling realize that, hey, you can do this,” he says. “In my own words, there’s nothing wrong with you. I get up, put on my braces and I go because no one else is going to do what I’m gonna do. Only me.”
During Spring 2023 Convocation, Bernard was asked to read the reflection during his ceremony. He says it is humbling and an honour to be chosen to address his peers at a pivotal moment of their lives. “I wish for the next set of graduates that come after me… I hope that all the opportunities that I have achieved, that they will achieve it but in their own capacity, their own state of mind,” says Bernard. His advice for incoming ULethbridge students is simple.
Breathe. It's a new experience. So, breathe. If you're struggling and you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Because there are lots of helpful individuals on campus, whether that be staff, professors, or other individuals that work in different departments.
Throughout his studies, Bernard says there are two professors who made a profound impact on him—Dr. Karl Laderoute (philosophy) and Dr. Paul McKenzie-Jones (Indigenous studies). “Both of their understanding of what they teach in their fields has really opened my eyes to not only Indigenous cultures outside of my own, but also the concept of philosophy and the concept of understanding how the world works in the minds of philosophers,” says Bernard. He is also grateful to have obtained awards from the Chandler Family Inclusion Fund and the Logan Boulet Inclusive Education Award. “Both scholarships have helped me in the aspect of employment,” says Bernard, who worked as a student outreach worker for counselling services, as well as at the testing centre. “I was in charge of, as I call it, sharking, but just exam proctoring or making sure students are doing what they need to be doing, no sneaking off, and if someone needs help, to help them. And just being an overall friendly face.”
While Bernard will be graduating, he won’t be far from the ULethbridge campus. Listeners can still tune in to his musings on his radio shows which he plans to continue well into the future. He also hopes to secure permanent employment on campus. “My hope is that I secure employment in general,” says Bernard, “In my young life, I didn't think I was able to do these things because of so many stigmas and stereotypes around having disabilities. But I showed the world.”
With his fearless tenacity and charming personality, Bernard has made a significant impact on campus, forging a lifetime of memories, friendships and lessons that will carry him forward into his future. “There are so many things I've accomplished in my life, not just here at the University, but in general, that I will carry with me throughout my life, past, present and future,” he says.
And I will say this — what's happened in the past makes us who we are today. One often meets their destiny on the path they seek to avoid it. So, in that logic, no matter where life brings you, just push forward. Don't look back. But always remember where you come from.
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