Convocation 2023: For the recognition of what can be changed and the knowledge of what can’t

Compiled by Erin GuiltenaneMount Royal University | Posted: May 29, 2023 | Lasted updated: June 2, 2023

Spirit River Striped Wolf
Bachelor of Arts — Policy Studies


Spirit River Striped Wolf


Spirit River Striped Wolf became the first Students’ Association of Mount Royal University president of Indigenous ancestry in early 2020. From the Piikani Nation (Aapatohsipikani), which helps make up the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksikaitsitapi), since adolescence Striped Wolf has dedicated his life to improving the conditions of Indigenous Peoples through advocacy, activism, volunteering and leadership initiatives. Now operating his own consulting company, Striped Wolf is a public speaker and workshop facilitator for indigenization and decolonization and anti-racism training. In 2018, he was one of nine Indigenous students from across Canada to be handpicked for the federal government's Indigenize the Senate event.

Striped Wolf graduates with a Bachelor of Arts — Policy Studies at MRU’s 2023 Convocation ceremonies.

What was your most memorable MRU experience?

My most memorable experience was running for student president. Student presidency (my role was officially known as the SAMRU Representation Executive Council president and chief representation officer) reminded me of the different arduous ceremonies that exist in my community — ceremonies that are meant to be challenging, exhausting and difficult — to help you gain a different perspective and get closer to yourself, your values and principles.

What I learned about myself is that I am my biggest supporter, my biggest ally and my biggest confidant. We need people in our lives to inspire us, help us when we need it, but most importantly, we need a strong relationship with ourselves when we’re faced with extraordinary challenges. Challenges like the campaign I ran in 2020, or the pandemic our student representatives were faced with only a month after being elected, or students concerned about a potential faculty strike and lockout. It’s quite easy to lose yourself in that kind of chaos.

For me, I found solace in Stoic philosophy, which is really about learning how to accept those circumstances that we have no control over, but also to find the courage and wisdom to change the things we do have control over. I think my teams and I did a great job at representing students, but ultimately what I’m most proud of is who I found at the end of that journey: myself.

Which on-campus groups or programs should more students know about?

I love MRU for the immense opportunities that exist and for the student experience it offers outside of the classroom.

Clubs are a great way to meet people and to build your social skills, and I really recommend that students try things outside their comfort zone like I did with the Improvisation Club.

SAMRU’s Peer Support Centre has helped me get back on my feet more than a couple times, too. If you’re a credit student, you’re paying for these services, so why not get the most out of your dollar?

Look out for student opportunities provided by faculty departments. If I didn’t apply for research opportunities that were relevant to my interests, I wouldn’t have made such an impact in the Indigenous community.

Lastly, SAMRU’s Student Governing Board is the highest decision-making authority for the students’ association, and I was pretty disappointed how disengaged students are with their student council. Believe me, the governing board wants to hear from you and it’s a great opportunity to learn about professionalism and governance.


"We need people in our lives to inspire us and help us when we need it, but most importantly, we need a strong relationship with ourselves when we’re faced with extraordinary challenges."

Spirit River Striped Wolf


Was there someone specific who made an impact on you during your studies?

I would be lost without my counsellor at Student Counselling Services! 

My counsellor helped me bring order to the wild ride of student life. Student life, to me, was filled with uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. The vulnerability of doing something as simple as writing a paper and having it marked by my professor was excruciating for me. I think it was tough for me because intergenerational trauma teaches us at a young age that our worth is pinned to the opinions of others and that our acceptability is contingent on meeting perfectionism. Suffice it to say, my counsellor had her work cut out for her when it came to me, but I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if it weren’t for the guidance and support she offered.

Did you receive scholarships and awards?

I think scholarships are still very inaccessible for (specifically) on-reserve Indigenous students. We are faced with a unique challenge when we enter university because we had just mastered the high-school system on-reserve, and then we’re expected to master a completely different and overwhelming post-secondary educational system.

My grades weren’t the best because the transition to off-reserve life and university life can be costly in many ways, and it takes a ton of trial and error, which may not be the experience of those students who have lived in the city all their lives. This makes scholarships competitive and inaccessible, and so my support rested in my friendships and networks who could lend a hand when needed.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome during your time in university?

The best way to describe my biggest obstacle is probably “survivor's guilt.” I felt guilty that I was achieving when so many peers from my reserve’s high school continued to struggle and when so many young children and youth continue to die of overdoses every other week in my community. Their literal sense of hope and love has been ripped from their consciousnesses from the devastating effects of colonial genocide, and yet I became the first MRU student president of Indigenous ancestry — it’s hard to emotionally reconcile. I think it’s why I have such a passion for pursuing Indigenous law and policy, so that I can contribute to enhancing the lives of my people.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I was able to contribute significantly to the Indigenous entrepreneurship community through my work with a four-year social innovation project called “Otahpiaaki: Indigenous Beauty, Fashion & Design” (read about it in MRU’s Summit magazine). I named the project, which is Blackfoot for when the sole and vamp of a moccasin are sewn together, as analogous to reconciliation but also to healing intergenerational trauma. Hindsight 20/20, it was not a perfect project but it put Indigenous artistic-based entrepreneurs on the map and highlighted the barriers Indigenous people face as they cope with racial exclusion from the labour market. It also showed the incredible movement that can manifest when Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies work together in the name of reconciliation.

What are your plans for the future?

After I finished my program this past December, I had to undergo an open-heart surgery to correct a heart valve disease that I was born with. After I recover, I’m hoping to find quality work while I prepare to eventually enter graduate school, or perhaps law school, with a focus on Indigenous law and policy.


MRU grads are helping shape the future here in Calgary and across the country. We invite you to join us in celebrating the unique combination of confidence, vulnerability and boldness that goes into the university student experience and read our profiles of exceptional students from the Class of 2023.

A note for soon-to-be MRU alumni! As you prepare to transition from student life, we encourage you to check out our Alumni Hub — custom-built to inform you about the programs, benefits and services available to you as a member of the MRU alumni community.