What’s the big idea? With Roy Weasel Fat

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The “New Buffalo”

Education is the “new buffalo,” and the work done at post-secondary institutions is essential to ensuring a strong and prosperous future, especially for Indigenous peoples.

 

What is this idea all about?

Our Elders call education the new buffalo. You know how in our traditional culture the buffalo used to provide almost everything a person needed – food, shelter, clothing? That is how they view education now. They keep encouraging everyone to get an education – much like my parents did for me.

How have you seen this idea in action in your life?

For me, growing up on my dad’s farm on the reserve, south of Standoff, I worked, farmed and ranched, and basically it was more of my parents’ push for me to go to college. They told us kids to get an education – they said we’d be better off for it. It was what they wanted for us. Their own schooling was limited. They were at boarding [residential] schools, and my mother only went through grade eight and my father through grade six. They saw education as a value and they wanted me to try college.

I went to Lethbridge College to study Vocational Agriculture. There were two three-month semesters that coincided with harvest and spring seeding. I was one of very few from the reserve to go on to post-secondary education. When I got there, there were a handful of students from here, including one in the ag program with me.

[After graduating from the college, Weasel Fat worked at the Lethbridge Research Centre and then in various ag-related jobs on the Blood Reserve. In 1987, he returned to the world of post-secondary education, attending Mount Royal University for upgrading, the University of Calgary where he earned a Bachelor of Education degree in 1992 and Gonzaga University where he earned a Masters of Arts in Educational Counselling in 1997. He is currently working on his doctoral degree focusing on Blackfoot cultural philosophy.]

It was during a practicum experience at the U of C, that’s the time I started to know that mainstream people didn’t know much about the First Nations people. I was working in a school southeast of Calgary – and that class, they were the best group of kids. Those kids were really hungry for First Nations teachings, for learning about our Blackfoot ways. My dad loaned me his buckskin outfit and I wore it one day, and showed them my dad’s headdress. It was remarkable to see these kids wanted to know more – they just wanted to learn.

How do you see this idea in action in your work?

I began my career at Red Crow Community College in January 1994 by developing an adult literacy course and instructed there to 1996. In 1997, I was appointed the adult education coordinator, and in 2002, the vice president academic. In the

fall of 2013, I became President of Red Crow College. As president, I enjoy being able to promote the college. My work here is trying to get our community members educated. Accessibility is number one and it’s important that we have it right here in the community, that we are one of the five First Nations colleges in Alberta.

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