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Vince Pawis, Elder / Instructor Presented with Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Education from SCDSB

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Vince Pawis, Elder (middle) received the Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Education from Board Chair Jody Cameron (left) and Director of Education, Catherine McCullough (right).

April 17, 2013 - On Tuesday, April 16, Sudbury Catholic District School Board trustees presented Vince Pawis, a traditional elder, with an award for Excellence in Aboriginal Education. Pawis is a traditional Elder from Shawanaga First Nation that has been working in all Sudbury Catholic schools with students from as young as Junior Kindergarten through to grade 12 for the past six years.

In order to continue to build community and capacity within Sudbury Catholic Schools, as well as continue to implement the “Ontario First Nation, Metis and Inuit Education Policy Framework”, the Sudbury Catholic District School Board has implemented the “Elders in the School” project. This project offers all schools the opportunity to work with Vince.

Through the “Elders in the School Project”, Vince actively promotes an increased awareness, understanding and appreciation of the rich histories, cultures and perspectives of First Nation, Metis and Inuit peoples to staff and students in the Sudbury Catholic District School Board.

Vince helps to create culturally inviting school atmospheres that welcome Aboriginal families, honour diversity and respect the beauty and history of traditional teachings. He supports our schools in developing innovative approaches to meet the needs of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students. As well, Pawis works with Aboriginal youth and families who require support through mentoring projects and traditional counseling.

Dawn Wemigwan, principal of St. David has had the opportunity to work with Pawis on a number of occasions and spoke to the trustees about the outstanding contributions Vince has given to the Sudbury Catholic community. “What started off as a conversation with Vince to help us get us two teepees six years ago, has blossomed into the most beautiful relationship with our school board,” explained Wemigwans. “Our students look up to him, and respect him, as he shares his triumphs and life experiences with us. By doing this he breaks down barriers and builds positive relationships. It is through this sharing of traditional Native culture, that Pawis provides knowledge, understanding and appreciation to all who hear his message – this not only includes the students, but also the staff and community members.”

Vince is the owner/ operator of White Buffalo Road Healing Lodge. He has worked with Corrections Canada for almost 20 years, providing traditional knowledge and building cross-cultural understanding. Vince continues to work with youth involved with the courts system promoting pride and building cultural esteem.

For his accomplishments, Pawis was awarded the Minister's Award for Exceptional Achievement in Corrections last year. He received the award, which is given by the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to those who have demonstrated outstanding bravery, community service and have made exceptional contributions to the field of corrections.

Vincent Pawis was recently appointed to the Order of Ontario and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for his work in the community. The Order of Ontario is the highest honour given out in the province. Vince was recognized for his decades of service to the community, working with youth at risk, and with those in the corrections system as well his work on developing a different kind of parole hearing for First Nation offenders.

Jody Cameron, Chair of the board presented Pawis with the award and shared his gratitude with the group. “We are so honoured to have Vince work so positively with our students and staff,” Cameron stated. “Vince helps to create culturally inviting school atmospheres that welcome Aboriginal families, honour diversity and respect the beauty and history of traditional teachings. He supports our schools in developing innovative approaches to meet the needs of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students.”

After receiving his award, Pawis spoke to the crowd. “ It has been an incredible honour as I have been blessed to do this type of work. I was taught never to look for recognition so I struggle with receiving an award, but the Creator works in mysterious ways so I am very grateful for this achievement and look forward to doing more work.”

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