STM student Bear-Demkiw lauded for community engagement work

St. Thomas More College student Dawn Bear-Demkiw was honoured in the Community Engagement Category. The fourth-year Psychology student was nominated by Dr. Jenn Briere. (Photo courtesy of STM)

STM psychology student honoured at 2023 Indigenous Student Achievement Awards


(This article was originally published at and is used with permission)

“This event has grown,” said Candace Wasacase Lafferty said March 9 at the 2023 edition of the Indigenous Student Achievement Awards.

She was giving a brief history of the awards and Indigenous Achievement Week, and as if to prove her point, staff members were scurrying around as she spoke, finding more chairs and filling up every corner of the already crowded hall.

Wasacase Lafferty is the Senior Director of the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre, where the awards were presented to 47 deserving students.

The Indigenous Student Achievement Awards started as an initiative of the students themselves as a way to honoring and uplift each other, but grew into the large event we see today, hosted by the Centre and attended by administration, faculty and staff from across the campus.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve built after all these years,” she said. “There is a whole host of allies who have come on board, and that is the true growth of Indigenization on this campus, when we learn and share and walk together.”

Said the awards are one of the three big highlights of the year for the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre, and a great way to share so many more stories with the community.

The event began with an opening prayer given by Elder Roland Duquette, from the Mistawasis First Nation. Brandi Tourand sang the Métis national anthem and Tyler Smallchild and Rylan sang the Honour Song.

Dr. Angela Jaime, Interim Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, brought a message of congratulations on behalf of Provost Dr. Airini, and then Rachel Fiddler, Community and Cultural Resource Lead, and Justice Noon, Interim President of the Indigenous Students’ Union took over as Masters of Ceremony for the awards.

Elder Linda Sanderson and Elder Roland Duquette presented each of the awards, which encompassed the categories of Academic Achievement, Community Engagement, Leadership, Research and Resiliency.

St. Thomas More College student Dawn Bear-Demkiw was honoured in the Community Engagement Category. The fourth-year Psychology student was nominated by Dr. Jenn Briere.

“I am a young Indigenous 2-Spirit person from Flying Dust First Nation,” Bear-Demkiw has said, in describing her journey in at university and in advocacy. “I have taken my lived experience, as both an Indigenous and a white-presenting Indigenous person and used it as a base for my education to be built upon. I specialize in LGTBQ2S+ issues as well as substance use and addictions. My previous positions focused on missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2-spirit peoples.”

“I nominated Dawn for the award for a few reasons. Their devotion to their studies, helping their communities and commitment to helping others set them apart from other students,” said Dr. Briere. “They are doing great with their studies and are very active in supporting their own learning, seeking out opportunities to learn, share, and support others. It’s easy to tell that Dawn strives to do the best they can and does very well at it.”

Dr. Briere also said Dawn’s goal of bringing their knowledge back to their communities is consistent with Indigenous values, and they are a leader in the 2-spirit community.

“With life challenges, tremendous resilience and commitment to their growth and contributions –  I have no doubt Dawn will make very meaningful change to the various communities they belong to, for at their young age, they’re already accomplishing so much of that. I’m proud of Dawn, what they’re aiming to accomplish, and all that they have already achieved. They’re a model student and Indigenous community member.”

View the list of honorees HERE.

To find out more about Indigenous Achievement Week, visit: