(Photo: Owen Egan)
When Charlotte Burns received the email telling her she had been awarded a First Peoples’ Entrance Bursary from the Eberts Family Foundation, she was surprised and relieved. “This has taken a big burden off me,” she says, adding: “It was an affirmation. It said someone values the work I am doing.”
Describing herself as an “urban Aboriginal,” Burns remembers going to powwows with her grandmother, a full-blooded Delaware and residential school survivor. Burns now volunteers with McGill’s First Peoples’ House, which provides a home away from home for indigenous students of all backgrounds.
“I help with the fall powwow, I cook meals every Wednesday, and I was a camp counsellor,” says Burns. “Whatever they need – I’m there!”
The Eberts family has deep roots at McGill: more than 30 family members have studied here. Jake Eberts, BEng’62, DLitt’98, the Oscar-winning producer of such films as Dances with Wolves and Grey Owl, has long been fascinated with the history and culture of First Nations. His latest film, Journey to Mecca, recently hit the IMAX big screen. His family’s endowment has provided generous ongoing support for McGill’s indigenous students through financial aid, recruitment outreach and cultural activities.
Burns herself has eclectic interests. She plays the clarinet and performed for a year with a civic orchestra in Stratford, Ont. She worked as a federal youth services officer this summer. Now in her second year of law, she plans to study indigenous law and work in child welfare.
“One way or the other, I want to give back,” she says.