Sometimes an outstretched hand is all that’s needed for someone to take the next step.
For Indigenous Studies student Siksiikakoan (Blackfootman), Shane McDougall, that help came from the Indigenous Student Success Cohort (ISSC), which supported him on his return to school decades after he graduated high school.
“I was a little scared because of the great space of time in which I was in school last,” says McDougall, 50, who hails from the Piikani Nation, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
“The ISSC is the reason for my success and getting back into an academic institute. It’s a vital part of Indigenous students going into the University of Lethbridge, whether they be young or old. It’s there to make sure your educational journey is a success,” he says.
“I’ve met so many wonderful friends through the ISSC. We’re a family now that’s there for each other and also there for new, potential students.”
The first-year credit program provides Indigenous students who otherwise wouldn’t be accepted into the ULethbridge a chance to enter university, providing them with core skills that honour Aboriginal ways of knowing and learning. The program also provides cultural and peer support, advising and academic skills development.
“They show you how to become a successful student by teaching you everything you need to do to achieve an education, which for me included being able to maneuver in a new style of library, how to study and how to write proper papers. And if you’re lacking any basics such as math and English, they’ll upgrade you,” says McDougall, a father of four (and grandfather to one) who, prior to attending university, worked in construction, in the feedlot industry, and as a ranch hand.
“Without the Indigenous Student Success Cohort, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Shane is always willing to share his cultural knowledge and truly leads by example. - Dr. Michelle Hogue, Coordinator, ISSC nominated Shane as a Shining Student in 2022
But it’s not just at school that McDougall thrives. His summer work has also provided a meaningful sense of accomplishment. In addition to owning a small business harvesting tipi pole sets, McDougall has spent the past three summers working with ULethbridge in cooperation with the Piikani Traditional Knowledge Service Department summer work program.
“In my summer student work we do a lot of work with the youth, teaching them about harvesting our traditional plants and how to hunt. We teach craft making, which includes pow-wow regalia and belts, drum making, singing and dancing, tipi pole harvesting and setting up – all aspects of our culture. We also work with our elders and knowledge holders throughout, so we’re learning as well,” says McDougall, who is himself a traditional belt maker.
“I think it’s very important to mentor our youth. They’re our future and it’s important that they not only get an education but also learn their Blackfoot language and culture.”
Mentoring youth isn’t the only way McDougall hopes to spark inspiration.
“I came back to school to show my kids and my family, as well as my people, the importance of getting a western style education, while learning our culture and language and bridging cultures. When I graduate, I intend to move back to my Nation and share my knowledge with my people.”
About the ISSC
To learn how you can thrive at the University of Lethbridge while staying connected to your culture, visit the Indigenous Student Success Cohort (ISSC).
About Shining Students
Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.
Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Siksiikakoan, Shane!