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ICYMI: New Chief Harry Family Scholarship aims to boost Indigenous students across Canada

$50,000 scholarship supports 10 Indigenous students over five years.

It is fitting that this Squamish family, known for educating others, continues that tradition with a scholarship in its name. 

The new Chief Harry Family Scholarship aims to empower Indigenous students across Canada to pursue post-secondary education. 

The scholarship will support 10 Indigenous students with $50,000 over five years.

Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) hereditary Chief Dale Harry, whose ancestral name is Pekultn Siyam, said that with more and more organizations and companies looking to hire Indigenous people, there needs to be training and education available so they are ready to fill those positions.

"The motivation stems from the desire to provide Indigenous peoples, our peoples, with access to economic opportunities—some people can't access that education," he said.

Harry and his entire family are well-known in the Sea to Sky Corridor for their community leadership and involvement, sharing of knowledge, and support of education. 

His mother is Elder Chésha7 (Gwen) Harry, who has worked in education for more than 50 years and often shares her negative experiences attending a residential school in Alert Bay as a young girl. 

For her community contributions, she received Quest University’s first honorary degree and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.

"Education was one of our important things in our family," Harry said of the five boys and two girls in the Harry family. He praised the guidance of his parents—his father for teaching him cultural and outdoor knowledge and his mother for her passion for education. 

"I think in 1967, I was one of her first kids in the Totem preschool, and it's still going on to this day," Harry said in an interview over Zoom with The Squamish Chief on Friday, May 17.

"My dad, that's where I carry my chieftainship. My dad taught us knowledge, how to hunt, how to fish … drumming and singing."

The scholarship in the family name will be awarded to those pursuing fields including education, social work, psychology, and the social sciences. According to a news release about the scholarship, these fields have some of the largest funding gaps for students.

Harry stressed that although the scholarship holds his name, it represents his whole family. 

"I was determined to carry on that legacy of education that was established by my mother," Harry said. 

The scholarship is funded by The Driving Force Group of Companies (TDFG), a network of transportation and fleet management companies, and through a partnership with Indspire, a national Indigenous registered charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

“The significant cost of tuition can be a barrier to accessing post-secondary education. We’re fortunate to be in a position to help remove this obstacle and help Indigenous students realize their dreams and full potential,” said Ayman Ammoura, president and CEO of The Driving Force, in a news release.

Harry said he hopes more companies step up to support Indigenous education. 

"We need more, more people willing, like The Driving Force ... stepping up and investing in our future. And particularly earlier in our youth. I like to focus on the young, young people, because they're going to make a difference for tomorrow."

Applications can be found on the Indspire website. The first step in the process is for interested parties to complete the linked application for the scholarships and bursaries.