Perhaps one of the most recognizable persons in Canada’s recent history with Indigenous people is the late Elijah Harper. A Cree man from Manitoba, and a friend to NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community, Elijah is well known for his significant influence in Canadian politics. He was elected as chief of the Red Sucker Lake First Nation in 1978 and, later, as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba and the Parliament of Canada, advocating for Indigenous interests and human rights until his death at age 64 in 2013.
What many people do not know, however, is that Elijah was a man of deep faith in Christ — a faith instilled in him by his father, Alan B. Harper, who was a pastor for more than 50 years.
Elijah was also deeply committed to Indigenous education, including theological education. He — as Cree scholar Blair Stonechild wrote in his book by the same name — understood that “education is the new buffalo,” meaning it has the capacity to provide for our needs and ensure our survival.
“I believe that an educated youth is our future. They put themselves through education into positions of leadership and significant places in society where they can make decisions that impact the well-being of all Aboriginal people,” Elijah said.
But many Indigenous students face barriers to education. Few students can access funds to support their education from their tribal governments or the federal government. And many band councils are, perhaps understandably, leery of Christian education.
In 2017, NAIITS established the Elijah Harper Education Fund in collaboration with Elijah’s wife, Anita Olsen Harper, to remove such barriers for Indigenous students wishing to study at NAIITS. The fund helps students finance their graduate and post-graduate studies through scholarships awarded by a committee of NAIITS board members, faculty and graduates.
Become part of the Elijah Harper Education Fund and help us remove barriers for Indigenous students by making your donation today.