SIFC Gets New Elder
By Sandra Ahenakew
with permission from
In 1937 Beatrice Lavallee was forced to attend residential school. She described the first time she entered residential school as frightening. "I was so scared I huddled in a corner with other children from Piapot. "Today, Beatrice Lavallee gives us the impression that nothing scares her. In the summer of 1999, while attending a sweat, Beatrice was approached by Rick Favel and invited to come visit SIFC. She liked it so much she stayed, "this is where I fit " she said. I guess you can call her SIFC's Elder in residence.
Beatrice is an incredibly strong woman who has had to overcome many difficulties in her life. Residential school, an alcoholic husband, and the passing of her daughter to name a few. Through all the trials and tribulations Beatrice has come out on top, and she shines! She has a beautiful smile and big bright eyes. She appears to be slight, and even fragile, but don't let her size fool you.
She has been a daughter, sister, wife, mother and Kokum. Beatrice is very modest about her life accomplishments. She has worked hard all her life. In residential school she memorized prayers in Latin before she could even speak English. She worked in banks, detox centers, and housing corporations. In whatever job Beatrice had, she was always striving to be the best. When Beatrice retired from her last job, she returned home to Piapot. Within months of returning back home Beatrice was asked to run for a position on the band counsel, she did, she won and stayed for 4 years, her portfolio was housing.
She has been a daughter, sister, wife, mother and Kokum and for each of those roles her job descriptions were easily defined. When we try to describe the role of the Elders at SIFC the task becomes more difficult. Elders hold a Ph.D. in the culture and traditions of the First Nations people. A long time ago before there were schools the Elders were the teachers. Maintaining First Nations cultures and traditions has been a part of SIFC since the college opened 25 years ago. Part of that mandate is too have First Nations Elders on the SIFC campuses. Students who have been raised with traditional values appreciate the guidance of the Elders. Students unfamiliar with the traditions of their culture consider Elders to be valuable resources.
The Elders make coming to university less stressful for First Nations students. Elders give the students a connection to the community which is important to the students. Elders such as Beatrice share their knowledge and life experiences and make us all feel welcome.
In addition to working at SIFC Regina, Beatrice is raising her two grandsons aged eight and eighteen. "My Kokum taught me everything I know, today I do that for my grandchildren," says Beatrice. Beatrice's warm personality makes everyone feel welcome, and she enjoys talking with and helping her people out however she can.