Mount Royal This Week

Elder brings wisdom to Mount Royal

Iniskim Centre director Jolain Foster welcomes new Medicine Trail Co-ordinator Marvin Fox to Mount Royal.

To the Mount Royal community, he’s being introduced as Marvin Fox. But amongst his Aboriginal circle, he’s known as Big Eagle — a name given to him many winters ago by his grandfather on the Blood reserve.

Wanting to connect those two worlds, the native and non-native, is what brings Fox to Mount Royal. Joining the Iniskim Centre on a part-time basis just two weeks ago, Fox is already mentoring students and staff through his role as "Naato'sooksoKo", which is Blackfoot for Medicine Trail Coordinator.

Here to encourage Blackfoot traditions to new generations, the Elder says the culture is fading with time.

“If (Aboriginal) students don’t understand their history, it’s tough for them to know where they are going. They can make things happier for themselves. There’s a whole world out there for them,” he says.

Fox predicts in less than 10 years, only one per cent of the villages will speak their native language — a statistic he is trying to change.

“My dream is to have credit classes in Blackfoot, Cree and other Aboriginal languages so students can learn the dialect in the same way they would take classes in Spanish or French,” he explains.

First-year Open Studies student Stephanie Onespot agrees it is important. “I sat in my Spanish class and thought, what am I doing here studying Spanish when I’m not even learning my own language?”

Having a bachelor’s degree in Education Psychology, Fox remembers how difficult post-secondary education can be. He says that’s why he can relate to the approximately 500 Aboriginal students at Mount Royal.

“Students like Stephanie leave a small First Nations community and come to the hustle and bustle of Calgary.  A non-aboriginal culture can be very intimidating, so my role is to help students adjust and show them Mount Royal is a safe environment in which to learn. This is a place where they have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”

Fox can be reached through the Iniskim Centre at 5596.

─ Suzanne Waddell