“We are very proud to celebrate and honour ITEP and SUNTEP alumni today,” said Dean Michelle Prytula during the opening address. “These gifted musicians, artists, dancers, storytellers, teachers and more continue to inspire so many others to celebrate Indigenous languages, culture and identity in ways that are critical for generations past, current and future.”
Sheldon Wuttunee (ITEP’01), George Lafond (ITEP’80) and Delbert Wapass (ITEP’96) were masters of ceremonies throughout the day.
“The revitalization of our culture is through language. This cannot be stressed enough,” said Wuttunee.
“I was very fortunate to go through the ITEP program in the 70s,” said Lafond. “Since then, the University of Saskatchewan has gone further than any other university, I believe, in the spirit of reconciliation.”
SUNTEP program head Sheila Pocha (SUNTEP’86) and ITEP director Chris Scribe (ITEP’05) supported the College of Education initiative through reconnecting with their alumni to build a line-up of performances. ITEP operates within the College of Education, and the SUNTEP program is run through a partnership with the Gabriel Dumont Institute.
“I am so proud to be a part of this university and the Gabriel Dumont Institute, and—in partnership with Chris Scribe—to promote Indigenous programming in the field of education and show others how outstanding our teachers are. We are here to tell people that we matter,” Pocha emphasized.
“ITEP and SUNTEP are key components of Indigenization on campus, and to showcase that is amazing,” said Scribe. “This event is so important. When these buildings that surround us today were created it was an era of colonization. They didn’t envision Indigenous people sharing song, culture and dance. They didn’t envision us getting degrees. So to be here sharing our culture, it’s powerful, it’s amazing and it shows our strength as a nation.”
Performers included Joseph Naytowhow (ITEP’95), a gifted nehiyaw singer, songwriter and storyteller, who opened the morning with a smudge and prayer. Métis educator and singer Angela Rancourt (SUNTEP’09) from the village of St. Louis followed with soulful renditions of influential classics.
“To be invited back to campus 10 years later is exciting,” shared Rancourt. “I’ve had a lot of great opportunities come my way, and I know that SUNTEP has played a role in that.”
Dr. Lillian Gadwa-Crier, ITEP alumna and nehiyaw iskwew from Kehewin Cree Nation, performed in Jingle Dress alongside her granddaughter and the ITEP Singers and offered advice to upcoming education students.
“It is a good day when I can reiterate and pass along the teachings that have been gifted to me. Upcoming teachers: your role is to help the children be the best that they can be. Taking those little children under your wing,” said Gadwa-Crier.
Additional alumni performances included Delia Waskawitch (ITEP’06), TJ Warren (ITEP’18), Dabney Warren (ITEP’12) and Mika Lafond (ITEP’06), as well as Zoey Roy (SUNTEP’17) reading from her recent book The Voyageurs: Forefathers of the Métis Nation with translations in Michif by Elder Norman Fleury.
The afternoon concluded with Métis square dancing by SUNTEP alumni Shantal Ryback (’14), Ashley Shaw (’15), Jennifer Altenberg (’10), Desiree McCauley (’08), Lyla Phillips (’16), Nicole Amiotte-Bilinsky (’95), Program Head Sheila Pocha (’86) and retired faculty member, Wilfred Burton.
College of Education faculty Marie Battiste, Kevin Lewis and Elder Norman Fleury spoke about Indigenous language program development in the college.
“We’re developing a website – wîcêhtowin.ca – to give language speakers, whether it’s Dakota, whether it’s Saulteaux, whether it’s the dialects up north – to give them a place that they can go and database a podcast or a game or a website and share it with others,” shared Lewis. “We’re helping give knowledge to the teachers to teach the language. There is great work being done here at the U of S.”
Over 1,600 students have graduated from ITEP since it was established in 1972. The Gabriel Dumont Institute has graduated over 1,300 SUNTEP alumni from the Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon programs since 1980.