McMaster’s School of Graduate Studies has announced a new scholarship to encourage Indigenous undergraduate students to study at the graduate level. Students from First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities will be eligible for the $15,000 scholarship, named after Six Nation’s educator and Cayuga chief Harvey Longboat. The first award will be made for the 2010-2011 academic year.
“Harvey Longboat was a determined advocate for the development of closer educational relations between the Six Nations and McMaster, and he was instrumental in helping set up our Indigenous Studies Program,” said McMaster’s President, Peter George. “I am delighted to see this wonderful educator and community leader recognized by this named scholarship. It is a most fitting tribute, and I’m sure it would have meant a great deal to him.”
Rick Monture, McMaster PhD student and the acting director of the Indigenous Studies Program, noted that McMaster took a leadership role by establishing one of Southern Ontario’s first Indigenous Studies programs in 1992, in the aftermath of the Oka crisis. “McMaster has an important legacy, but we can’t just rest on that history,” he said. “The Harvey Longboat Scholarship is a way to continue advancing McMaster’s association and reputation with our Indigenous communities.”
Monture, a Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River, says that though the actual number of Indigenous students at McMaster numbers less than 200 students, with only about a dozen graduate students, the total has grown from the handful of indigenous students that attended McMaster when he received his undergraduate degree in 1991.
“We know that Indigenous students on campus are an extremely under-represented group,” said Don Goellnicht, Associate Dean, Graduate Studies. “The Havery Longboat Scholarship may enable some students to overcome financial barriers and move on to graduate study here at McMaster, and that benefits not just the students, but the entire University.”
“These students bring a wealth of knowledge to our campus,” said Allison Sekuler, Associate Vice-President and Dean, Graduate Studies. “This scholarship is a small, but significant, step toward strengthening McMaster’s connections with Indigenous communities and toward making the McMaster community stronger as well,”
Sekuler, who sits on the President’s Advisory Committee for Building an Inclusive Community (PACBIC) noted that the Scholarship was inspired by a PACBIC initiative to address the needs of Indigenous students, and builds on other recent initiatives, including McMaster’s partnership with Six Nations Polytechnic to offer a diploma in the Cayuga language Ogweho:weh, and to create an Indigenous Knowledge Centre.
Harvey Longboat was instrumental in getting McMaster’s Indigenous Studies Program up and running, and remained involved with McMaster until his death in 2001. Longboat was a school teacher and Superintendant of Education on Six Nations, and was active in encouraging post-secondary education in that community.
“Harvey emphasized the importance of bringing our language, culture and spirituality into the university setting, as a means of studying our intellectual traditions in an academic environment,” says Monture. “It seemed fitting to name the scholarship after him.”