It is very fitting that a Driftpile Cree Nation man has won another prestigious award just weeks before an entire crop of Grade 12 graduates leaves E.W. Pratt High School and St. Andrew’s School.
On June 7, Billy-Ray Belcourt won the Griffin Poetry Prize, for his debut book of poems This Wound is a World. Belcourt, the youngest winner of the prize, also takes home a cool $65,000.
Belcourt is a fine young man. He worked with South Peace News one summer. It was obvious his skills, ambition and intelligence would lead him to greener pastures and greater accomplishments.
He would never be the first to brag about his accomplishments but it is worth noting the subject matter of his book: the challenges Indigenous peoples face in modern society.
Belcourt is from a First nation. He was an exemplary student at St. Andrew’s, class valedictorian, future Rhodes Scholarship recipient – including the first Aboriginal to win the prize – and now poetry champ.
If there were any challenges at Driftpile, Belcourt has certainly overcome them with flying colours.
There is such an important lesson to be learned here that Belcourt has proven: it does not matter whether you are from Driftpile, Sucker Creek, High Prairie, Edmonton or Upper Rubber Boot. If you have the desire and ambition, you will succeed.
The fact is if you have the right talent, attitude and ambition, you will succeed. Good corporations, hospitals and schools do not give a tinker’s damn where you come from. If they think you can do the job, you will be hired.
Belcourt is not the only local area resident who has succeeded. Let me prove my point.
In late 2015, Samantha Stokes won the title of Miss Rodeo Canada. Do you think the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association cared she came from High Prairie instead of Calgary?
Do you think Canada’s Next Top Model judges cared that Linsay Willier was from Sucker Creek First Nation instead of Toronto?
Do you think that producers of the TV series Blackstone card that actress Roseanne Supernault was from East Prairie Metis Settlement instead of Vancouver?
Several other musicians too numerous to mention such as Nathan Cunningham are also doing very well, thank you. You are welcome to remind me of many more.
All these youth are coming from rural High Prairie, East Prairie, Driftpile and Sucker Creek. They are proving that if you’re willing to pay the price, you can succeed.
Not one of these youth ever took the sad excuse of, “I’m from High Prairie, what can you expect?” or “What can you expect when you’re raised on a reserve?” as an easy way out.
The fact is, each proved it doesn’t matter sweet-tweet where you’re from if you have the support of family, teachers, the community, band or settlement councils, etc. behind you.
Each never quit, remained focused to the task at hand, and had the internal drive to succeed. Where they were from did not matter.
Each graduate of Pratt and St. Andrew’s must realize this. The world is at your doorstep. Take the opportunity and seize it.
Being from “the sticks” doesn’t mean you have to settle for second best. Rather, take that stick and use it to beat the world in front of you.