She received financial support of $5,000 through the Susan’s Award for First Nations Female Students with Dependent Children, gifted generously by Dr. James Dosman (MD) and Susan Dosman.
“The scholarship took my focus off the financial stress, especially at the time when I was peer mentoring and participating in other campus activities. I was able to alleviate my bills, purchase art supplies and most importantly, afford textbooks as one book could cost up to $200,” she said. “I’m earning this degree not only for myself, but also for my kids. Without the help of others, I wouldn't have been able to do it alone.”
Little is from Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, and is a mother to four children and a grandmother to one. Three of her children are now adults living separate lives, one who is attending the University of Saskatchewan (USask) as a second-year student. Meanwhile, her youngest, who is 14 years old, is currently living with her.
Besides being a mother, Little is also a full-time student in USask’s College of Arts and Science. Through her own experiences, she found USask as a step towards starting a new beginning in her life.
“After leaving an abusive marriage three years ago, I moved back to my community and stayed with my family,” she said. “I felt hopeless and afraid from experiencing hidden homelessness. The loss of autonomy due to the years of abuse had reared its ugly face.”
With her previous education in management studies and office education, the only work she could find was a temporary position as a finance clerk in her community. However, her contract ended and left her searching for employment yet again.
“To get by, I used my talent to paint artwork and sell them to friends and family,” Little said.
Little wanted things to change in her life, so she took a chance and moved with her youngest to Saskatoon. In 2018, she applied to USask and received her admission in the same year.
Now in her fourth year of studies, Little continues to thrive in and outside the classroom. Last year, she was one of the college’s 13 Indigenous Student Achievement Award winners. Additionally, one of her paintings, along with 10 other Indigenous/Métis/Inuit artists, was published by an Indigenous social enterprise called Colouring it Forward, in the Indigenous Art & Wisdom Journal. The painting featured in the journal was the same piece she created after she started her healing journey, and said it represented going back home to heal and taking back her power.
On top of balancing her role as both a parent and student, Little also participated in campus activities. During her time as a peer mentor for USask’s Indigenous Student Achievement Pathways (ISAP), she was invited to take part in the video series called The Value of an Arts and Science Degree. While filming, Little stood for an hour staring into the camera as hundreds of students and faculty walked by, and said it was a proud moment for her, taking up space as an Indigenous woman.
“This project helped me realize that my voice matters and that people are paying attention. I did it for those who feel they don’t have a voice, and experiencing intimate partner violence,” she said. “I want to let them know that there is hope and life after abuse.”
In the future, Little aspires to pursue her master’s and PhD in applied social psychology. She is looking forward to combining her education and passion for art to help children who have suffered through trauma and abuse.
Article originally published on news.usask.ca