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Couchiching woman given prestigious award today

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It’s been quite a summer so far for Dobi Frenette.

Not only is the Couchiching band member heading off to Hawaii early next month to attend a world conference on indigenous peoples, she is to receive a prestigous award in Vancouver today.

Frenette, a 22-year-old student at Laurentian University in Sudbury, will be presented with the Omer Peters Award by the Assembly of First Nations at a joint meeting of the AFN and the National Congress of American Indians.

Valued at $2,000, this award is presented to a First Nation citizen who has completed at least one year of post-secondary education in a political science program, demonstrated exceptional academic abilities, and participated actively in extracurricular activities.

“I’m really pleased with it,” Frenette noted. “I’m going to get my Masters and the money will definitely go towards that.

“I want to put everything that has come to me to good use,” she added. “Whether or not I eventually go into the native education field, everything contributes to a good basis for my future work, whatever it may be.”

Frenette also was honoured to be able to simply attend the meeting--the first joint gathering of First Nations in Canada and American tribes in the U.S. in 60 years.

Meanwhile, she’s looking forward to attending the fifth-annual World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Education, which is running Aug. 1-7 in Hilo, Hawaii.

“I’m really excited about it,” Frenette enthused. “To be able to see others’ goals and visions, their struggles, and how they’ve worked to overcome them--it should be great.”

Recently completing her four-year Honours Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies degree, her fourth-year honours essay--which examined the integration of on-reserve native students into urban high schools--was key to her being chosen to attend the conference.

The conference will focus on indigenous education--the cultural knowledge of the past, the needs of the present, as well as the direction of the future.

Participants, such as Frenette, will address two vital areas of education--higher education and traditional teachings.

“People should have a choice to into mainstream education or not,” Frenette remarked. “People who go to school on a reserve or into a First Nation’s education program often come out of it thinking differently than others.

“That’s an important difference to recognize,” she stressed.

The purpose of the conference is to finds ways to promote higher education to indigenous peoples in today’s world.

Equally important is devising a way to combine culture into teachings to ensure students continue in the path of their ancestors, and teach their children to practice their native philosophy of life.

Frenette, who was office co-ordinator for the Native Students’ Association at Laurentian last year, will start her term as president when she begins her Master of Arts in Humanities studies there in September.

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