Manitoban earns prestigious scholarship through love of Indigenous language

·3 min read

A passion and commitment to learn and share Indigenous languages have driven Cameron Adams for years and because of that drive, he's been awarded one of this country’s most prestigious and sought-after scholarships.

“I really believe that Indigenous languages are a foundational component of culture and offer us a world-view as Indigenous people,” Adams said. “They show us where we come from and where we are going.”

Adams, 24, who will complete a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education at the University of Winnipeg this spring, is making plans to head east and work towards a master’s degree at Montreal’s McGill University, after recently being named a McCall MacBain Scholar.

Adams is one of 20 post-secondary students in Canada and just two in Manitoba who have been awarded the scholarship this year and will begin in September working towards a master’s degree in Indigenous Language Revitalization at McGill University.

According to Adams, he is one of thousands who applied for the scholarship, which will now pay his entire tuition and all fees while working towards his master’s degree.

Adams has been selected for the scholarship because of his academic success, but also because of his work in the community, and his leadership qualities, as McGill University said that each scholar chosen was picked based on their “character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength, and intellectual curiosity.”

Adams says he has been curious about Indigenous languages and specifically about learning and sharing the Cree and Swampy Cree languages since he was a teenager, and was first introduced to the languages while growing up in Gimli.

His work over the years has included working with elders and community members to create a mobile app that familiarizes users with Swampy Cree words and phrases.

Adams has also participated in six Habitat for Humanity home-building trips, volunteered with a community-based safety patrol and contributed to university policy-making by serving on two committees.

He said the news of the scholarship is “life-changing” for him, but he also hopes it can be an inspiration to others about how far they can go when they find a passion.

“I didn’t go to a prestigious private school or anything like that,” he said. “I am from rural Manitoba and I went to public school, so this wasn’t a fast-track route, this was my own journey.

“I think that’s what’s important for people to hear because it shows anyone can get there, even when they do it their own way.”

He said he plans to complete his master's before deciding what career path he would like to take, but he plans for that career path to be focused on his love and passion for Indigenous languages.

“For Indigenous people who have lost that cultural connection, the language can help to guide with the values that we have at our core, and that is why it is so important to keep these languages alive,” he said.

Adams will study under the McCall MacBain Scholarship program at McGill University this fall — as will Manitoba’s other scholarship winner Clèche Kokolo — and will be working towards a master’s in Law in September.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun