Theresa Gladue: Aboriginal Woman of Distinction For Excellence Within the Community

By Malcolm McColl

Theresa Gladue is the Aboriginal Woman of Distinction in Northern B.C. this year. A collection of women were feted and awarded at a banquet and presentation ceremony held Oct 3, 2008. Theresa was honoured out of five nominees for her category at the annual Today’s Women Awards of Northern B.C., a production held at the Coast Inn of the North in downtown Prince George.

Theresa is the Aboriginal Education Coordinator at Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek. Her office is at the college and her goal is to keep students engaged in the learning process. Students come in all age groups, attending the school in a variety of programs. Theresa noted, “A lot of the women study social work, and most of the men go into trades at the college.”

Social work employment for graduates, Theresa explained, is found in South Peace Community Resources and other social organizations surrounding Dawson Creek. Trades employment is found in the busy oil and gas developments that are booming in the region. “Most of those who stay at their program,” said Theresa, “are definitely getting jobs when they graduate.” More interesting to Theresa is the number of students pursuing further education. “They get the education bug and start looking for higher education opportunities.” Some enter two-year diploma and educational outreach programs through video conference classrooms or the internet.

Theresa was born in Grande Prairie, Alberta and was raised at Sturgeon Lake in Alberta.

“So you are a Cree woman?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “definitely a Cree woman.”

“And how do you like the new job?”

“I love the job,” she replied. Theresa spent a number of years in the South Peace Community Resource Centre before taking the job at the college.

Northern Lights College is producing graduates in Ft. Nelson, Ft. St. John, Chetwynd, and Dawson Creek. Among the campuses, Dawson Creek is unique in serving a primarily Metis population from Kelly Lake Metis Settlement. The other campuses are also located near First Nation reserves.

Theresa sees a lot of enthusiasm among students, and they are especially motivated in Adult Basic Education. Other programs such as esthetics and social work are also popular within the Dawson Creek campus, where women clearly outnumber men. “Our society is changing,” said Theresa,” and we need education, meanwhile funds are depleting. A lot of these students are there to seize the opportunity while it still exists.”

Theresa’s active nature in the community has led to other awards, including Aboriginal Woman of the Year in Dawson Creek where she is currently exploring the world of local politics. The city council election is Nov 15, 2008, and Theresa is genuinely excited at the prospect of serving Dawson Creek. “I am the first aboriginal woman to run for city council,” she said. “It seems like I have the support.”

Theresa has earned much support through hard community-oriented work. “I have a production company, and we raise money for non-profit organizations.” Her company is called Oma Productions; “oma” means “this” in Cree. She also has a radio show called “Theresa’s Variety Hour” running on Chetwynd’s Peace FM. “I am on once-a-week with aboriginal musicians, artists, and others. I have interviews with artists like Carl Quinn, Earnest Monias, and Art Napoleon, and we introduce new musicians and original songs.” Theresa suggests to readers, “Google me. I am also a short story writer. I wrote a story called ‘The Epidemic’ that we turned into a play.”

Special Event Creations produces Today’s Women Awards in Northern B.C., and Theresa Gladue was awarded as “A woman of aboriginal descent who has excelled within the aboriginal community.” The four other nominees in her category also deserve an honourable mention: Marian Kotowich-Laval, Michelle Irwin, Candice Tiffany George, and Shannon Wright.