Indigenous woman, 79 years old, graduated from U of T with a PhD

A 79-year-old Indigenous great-grandmother marked a major milestone on Thursday, receiving her doctorate in education from the University of Toronto.

“I’ve been so excited and I haven’t been able to sleep for the last couple of nights,” education doctor Jacque/New Lavallee told CTV National News.

It has been her lifelong dream to achieve this, inspired by a message from her father.

“I only knew him for a short time when I was a kid, but he always said, ‘When you grow up, when you become a woman, you need to pursue education,'” she said.

Lavallee also served as the university’s headquarters and will receive an honorary doctorate, but she wants to get her own. Her doctoral thesis focused on the important role traditional knowledge Anishinaabe can play in higher education, focusing on her own experience as a domestic school survivor. resident and a teacher.

“The rest of the world doesn’t understand what traditional knowledge is,” she said. “It’s the word. It’s always said. It’s not written on some piece of paper. If you want to learn something, you have to go find it.”

Thanks to Lavallee’s thesis work, a new hostel has been established on campus in 2020 for study and traditional ceremonies.

“In many ways, Dr. Lavallee’s research has allowed us to think about and learn more about the role older adults play in college,” said Eve Tuck, associate professor of social justice education and was Lavallee’s supervisor, told CTV National News.

Lavalleee will continue as a resident senior, teaching Indigenous knowledge to help develop the curriculum.

“I just want to say to the young Anishinaabe students who are pursuing this path, don’t be afraid to tell their story. Because it’s valuable, it’s their life,” she said.

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