Cecilia DeRose, a Shuswap elder who works at TRU’s Williams Lake campus, received early recognition for winning one of this year’s Indspire awards. The announcement was made last Wednesday in Ottawa during question period in the House of Commons.
On March 23, 2018, DeRose, who was nominated for the Culture, Heritage and Spirituality category of the awards, will join 13 other Indigenous Canadians to officially receive their Indspire awards in Winnipeg.
DeRose is being recognized for her expertise in teaching the Secwepemctsin language, as well as her handiwork with hides, beads and quills and her knowledge of traditional/medicinal plants.
A member of the Esk’etemc First Nation, DeRose works with the Elders College in Williams Lake and an Aboriginal Head Start program in the area. She is also an elder advisor to the Culturally Safe Dementia Care research project.
DeRose was nominated earlier this year by Marianne Ignace, the director of SFU’s First Nations Language Centre. In her nomination letter, Ignace described DeRose as a “dedicated community linguist.”
“Cecilia has tirelessly given her wisdom and knowledge to the important task of maintaining and preserving our Secwepemc language and culture through volunteerism, teaching and her contribution to research projects,” Ignace wrote.
Ignace said she first met DeRose over thirty years ago while teaching a Secwepemc language course at SFU. DeRose was one of several elders that came to the class to teach the grammatical structures of the language and how Secwepemc connects to land and stories.
In addition to this, Ignace said that DeRose is an experienced ethnobotanist who never hesitates to share her knowledge of Secwepemc plants and the environment with younger generations. DeRose has also worked hard to maintain the skills of tanning and sewing buckskin, an important women’s skill among Secwepemc people.
It’s because of this experience with the Secwepemc language and her involvement within the Secwepemc community, that Ignace believes DeRose deserved recognition.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Indspire awards, an annually broadcasted ceremony that recognizes the achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals within our country.
Indspire itself is an Indigenous-led national charity that focuses on the education of Indigenous Canadians. In 2016-17, Indspire awarded 3,764 bursaries and scholarships worth $11.6 million, to First Nations, Inuit and Métis students across Canada.