Aboriginal Initiatives at Nipissing University

The Aboriginal Initiatives Program at Nipissing University offers students a unique opportunity to remain connected with their heritage while receiving their education. Throughout the school year, as well as in the summer, the Aboriginal Initiatives Office is busy helping students engage in their studies and in their community in order to be successful as individuals and share this success with others.

LaureeLauree Pizzale graduated from Nipissing’s Liberal Arts program in 2003 with concentrations in Social Welfare and Indigenous Studies. An Omushkego Cree from the Moose Cree First Nation, Pizzale moved to North Bay with her husband a month after they were married in 2001. At the time she was studying at Laurentian but transferred her credits to Nipissing University.

“I was open to Nipissing because it offered an intimate setting for students and it offered a flexibility with its course selections,” she said.

For the last 13 years, Pizzale has been working in the field of mental health and addictions while furthering her studies. In 2013, she completed the Leadership Essentials certification from the University of Toronto and is currently working to finish her Indigenous Social Work degree and hopes to go on to complete a Masters in Social Work at Nipissing.

Working within the community is also very important to Pizzale. She has been asked to be a guest speaker for 3rd-year nursing students at Nipissing to shed light on the history of Aboriginal mental health, approaches to care, cultural competency and safety. Pizzale is a member of the Aboriginal Professionals Association of Canada and each year with a team of locals organizes a community Round Dance. The goal of the Round Dance is to gather people together to educate them in an effort to reduce the stigma related with mental illness. This winter will mark the fifth annual Round Dance which has now become a much anticipated event in the community. This past year, Pizzale had the Dance committee partner with Nipissing’s Aboriginal Initiatives Office, as well as the Nipissing First Nation community and high school in order to make the event bigger than ever before.

Her passion for helping people is clearly reflected in her work and career ambitions as she sees that there is so much work to be done in the field of social work and welfare.

“Many of our Aboriginal people are challenged by mental illness, addictions and/ or learning disabilities,” Pizzale explained. “For the past six years, I have been in the management role and seeking opportunities to make a difference by enabling our cultural approaches of inclusivity and community integration. My vision is to reconnect our people with their communities, the language and culture and promoting our world view, not letting pathology represent their identity.”

BlairBlair Beaucage, Nipissing First Nation from the Garden Village community, graduated in 2012 from the Teacher of Anishnaabemwin as a Second Language Program. One of Nipissing’s ever-growing Accredited Teacher Education Programs, this has helped him start his career as a teacher back in his local community.

Beaucage became interested in this subject while in high school. “I was doing well in my Ojibwe course,” he explained. “I began speaking to elders and got more fluent that way.”

Now, Beaucage is an Ojibwe Language teacher at the very high school he once attended. As he is just starting out as a teacher, it is something he is excited to continue.

“I want to bring the language back to the Nipissing First Nation,” Beaucage said. “Being at Nipissing taught me to work hard for the things I want in life.”

Photo Courtesy of  nipissingu.ca