First Nations students earn SIGA scholarships

Cassandra Opikokew is a big winner with the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA).

The Canoe Lake Cree Nation member and University of Regina student is one of two $5,000 SIGA First Nations scholarship winners. The scholarships, which total more than $25,000 overall, are awarded each year by SIGA to First Nations students to assist them with their educational pursuits.

“The SIGA First Nations Scholarships Awards program provides opportunities to encourage education and continued learning,” remarked SIGA president and CEO Zane Hansen. “It also helps students successfully achieve career goals within SIGA and the broader community. SIGA developed the scholarship program to address fields where recruiting has traditionally been a challenge.”

The two $5,000 scholarships are awarded to students pursuing an education in information technology, commerce, hospitality and tourism management, and or to students pursuing a Masters or PhD in any field. Opikokew plans to combine her education and experience to work as both a professor and as a community-based researcher in the field of indigenous health and education policy.

Two scholarships valued at $2,500 apiece were also awarded in 2012. Among the recipients was Kevin Lewis, an Island Lake First Nation member. Pursuing his Masters in indigenous languages, Lewis speaks fluent Cree and plans to continue his research and collaboration with other graduate students to develop a program for all First Nations languages. His goal is to recognize teachers for innovative teaching while using their own languages.

Meanwhile, 10 $1,000 scholarships were awarded to eligible students in any other field. Among those winners were Ruby Sinclair of Flying Dust and Princeton Crookedneck of Island Lake.

Sinclair, a mother of three, is involved in the Aboriginal Law Students Association and regularly takes part in campus recreation activities such as floor hockey and ice hockey. She plans to work with First Nations communities specializing in contracts while Crookedneck, an information technology student at SIIT in Saskatoon, hopes to continue his education in Edmonton in an effort to secure an IT degree.

SIGA operates six First Nations casinos, employing approximately 1,900 people. As a non-profit organization, 100 per cent of the profits are returned to the company’s beneficiaries.

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