A Prince Rupert man, Brendan Eshom had his advocacy and commitment to First Nations relations honoured with the receiving a 2022 Reconciliation Award by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor in partnership with BC Achievement Foundation, a joint announcement stated on June 14.
“The award recognizes six extraordinary individuals and organizations who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, integrity, respect, and commitment to furthering reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the province of British Columbia or inspired others to continue reconciliation efforts,” the statement reads.
Eshom, a student at the University of British Columbia, is one of three individuals and the only one from the North to revive the honour, with three organizations also recognized.
Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Janet Austin, said she is heartened by the continued focus on advancing reconciliation in the province by contributors like Eshom.
“The 2022 recipients represent elders and youth, partnership and leadership. They showcase creative ways of educating young generations and new Canadians on the history and culture of Indigenous people, ensuring all are included on the journey of reconciliation. It has been my deep honour to champion the award, and I couldn’t be prouder to share the accomplishments of the 2022 recipients with British Columbians.”
“I think that if you do something good, if you put yourself out there if you continue to support your community, whatever community that would be … that it won’t go unnoticed and that people will appreciate what you do,” Eshom told The Northern View.
“It’s just such an honour to be recognized among other people, as well, who have also won these awards,” he said.
Following quickly on the announcement of the prestigious award came the news on June 16 that Eshom had also won a $40,000 RBC Indigenous Youth Scholarship, noting his work developing a Sm’algyax word app smalgyaxword.ca to preserve the language. He created the app and Facebook page to help introduce the language to the public while still a high school student at Charles Hays Secondary.
Born to the Gitga’at First Nation and raised in Prince Rupert, his mom is from Hartley Bay, where he said he spent many seasons growing up learning appreciation for the culture.
Eshom was chosen as one of 20 RBC scholarship recipients out of 800 applications from across the county. The award recognizes both strong academic performance and community involvement. The award is designed to help reduce the barriers to post-secondary education and training for Indigenous Canadian youth.
“According to the Indigenous Services Canada Quality Education report, only 44 per cent of Indigenous youth aged 18-24 have completed high school, compared to 88 per cent for other Canadians. Access to post-secondary education and training is often limited,” the RBC media release stated.
“In my family, I am the eldest of four children, and I feel it’s really important for me to lead the way for my siblings to attend university,” he said. The $10,000 per year scholarship will assist him in pursuing a Bachelor of Science at UBC and a graduate degree before returning to Prince Rupert.
“I appreciate this scholarship so much, as it reduces the financial weight borne by my parents and myself and allows me to focus more fully on my studies during the school year.”
“[These awards] are a testament to the people who use my app, and who are still learning the language, also my teachers and mentors that have come before and supported me,” he said, adding that it encourages him to go further with cultural advocacy and language preservation.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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