Recognizing her tireless efforts to advance a number of educational causes, Maskwacis resident Katherine Swampy landed a prestigious award this past summer.
“It came from the 2023 Education 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas. It recognizes the movers and shakers — people who are taking the initiative in education by introducing new things or they are bringing up important educational information,” she explained of the Outstanding Leadership Award.
“The award I received was to recognize the work that I did on my master’s - I have a masters in public policy administration. I had written about the Indian Act, but a portion of my research was on traditional Indigenous education, and the effects of colonialism, genocide, and residential schools,” she said. “That portion, specifically, is what got me recognized.”
The whole trek to the U.S. was also something of a family affair, which made it that much more special.
“My husband and my family came — we drove, so we went through five states. So we got a road trip — a journey that my kids got to experience, too.”
The award also recognized the fact that Swampy herself offers several leadership programs and three scholarships - $1,000 for University of Alberta students who are parents, $1,000 for Maskwacis students who are parents, and $500 for the Maskwacis Cultural College.
“The president gets to pick one student who that money will go to,” she said.
Swampy is a former Sampson Cree Nation band councilor, and she has also run provincial and federal campaigns. Over the years, she has also served on a multitude of boards and committees.
As to the award, Swampy said that learning she had been shortlisted seemed a bit surreal.
“When I was actually receiving it, I went through sort of an imposter syndrome (feeling) because there were so many others being recognized, and they were amazing recipients. I felt like they were doing far more amazing things than I was doing,” she explained. “I was just trying to help my community. I felt a personal responsibility to give back.
“But it was quite the experience to meet all of these amazing people.”
Ultimately, what fuels Swampy’s desire to be a driver for change stems from personal experience.
“I was raised in poverty, and I had a hard childhood. I’m also a mom,” she added. “Being a mom, and raising my kids as someone who was raised in poverty, I really wanted to change that intergenerational trauma.”
She explained that anyone affected by intergenerational trauma and poverty understands the importance of caring for family, and breaking down barriers to achieving a healthy lifestyle for their children so they don’t have to endure the same hardships.
Meanwhile, Swampy is back to her studies working on her dissertation — but her vision continues to be one of helping others expand their own educational horizons.
“My husband has taken up the mantle, he’s been elected as a Samson councilor, so he’s doing a lot of that community work. It doesn’t mean that you are no longer helping the community when you aren’t an elected leader. If you are a leader, you’re a leader. You are always going to have something to do to give back to the community,” she said.
“Sometimes that comes with a title, and sometimes it doesn’t.”