When connections take root

Person wearing black top, black and red skirt, and red satin stole sits on a rock with UNBC Library building in background.
UNBC undergraduate Trisha McCreery received a 2024 Pounamu Taonga Award at the First Nations Centre graduation ceremony.

Prince George, B.C. - With a keen interest in language and cultural revitalization developed over the course of pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in First Nations Studies, Trisha McCreery is poised to continue making a difference in her community and beyond. 

McCreery’s academic achievements and community contributions were recognized as she was honoured as a recipient of the 2024 Pounamu Taonga (Greenstone Treasure) Award at the First Nations Centre’s graduation on May 30. Established by UNBC friend and colleague Dr. Graham Smith from Maori University, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, the award is handed out annually at the FNC ceremony.

From the Tahltan Nation, McCreery was born and raised on the traditional and unceded territory of the Lheidli T’enneh Nation where she graduated from D.P. Todd Secondary School in Prince George. Being one of the first in her family to go to university and beginning studies at UNBC during the COVID-19 pandemic added to the undergraduate’s sense of trepidation at the outset. 

“It was scary,” she reflects. “But it has been incredible to meet so many people here and have the opportunity to learn from all of them.” 

Her journey at UNBC has been both a personal triumph and a testament to the power of making supportive connections.

McCreery says she found a sense of community through her interactions with her instructors, her participation in unique experiential learning opportunities and her involvement with UNBC’s First Nations Centre. This sense of community and support has been a cornerstone of her university experience, enriching her academic and personal growth.

As her interest in efforts to reclaim, revitalize and strengthen Indigenous languages and cultures began to take root, McCreery credits her instructors with fostering opportunities to further her learning, particularly First Nations Studies Assistant Professor Dr. Jessie King and Associate Professor Dr. Agnieszka Pawlowska-Mainville, as well as Political Science Professor Dr. Gary Wilson. 

McCreery worked with Pawlowska-Mainville to research and create interpretative signage for a trail system at the Aleza Lake Research Forest

Under guidance from Wilson, the undergraduate also carried out an independent study to delve into language and cultural revitalization efforts in the Tahltan Nation in preparation for an overseas internship with the Travelling Knowledges program.

McCreery says the internship on the Isle of Man, a small crown dependency located in the Irish Sea, was a transformative experience that broadened her horizons and deepened her understanding of global Indigenous revitalization efforts.

“I had the opportunity to work closely with lovely, hardworking and kind people who all had a common goal – I was able to experience language and culture revitalization in a physical setting very different from Canada,” she explains. “Not only did I gain so many practical skills and experiences, but I was also able to share a bit about Canada and Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Tahltan Nations’ efforts in language revitalization. It was unforgettable and irreplaceable.”

McCreery crossed the stage during UNBC’s Convocation ceremonies on May 31 to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree. 

Looking to the future, she once again feels a mixture of excitement and uncertainty, “Again, this part is scary! But I’m excited to continue forward with this chapter that has been enriched and aided by so many people and friends.”