Forging a path through academics and hard work
Melanie Dene’s story is one of aspirations. When she started on her academic path, she aspired to help her people by studying law with a focus on Aboriginal and environmental law. Melanie chose Native studies with a minor in political science and she wants to go on to do a master’s degree in Indigenous Women, Environment and Policy. It’s all a long way from her childhood growing up in Fort McMurray — and it hasn’t been easy.
Asked what advice she would give to young people following in her footsteps, she says: “Nothing is impossible. Don’t give up, know that you belong and that you always have a place.”
It’s the kind of advice that has gotten Melanie where she is today. As a single mom — she had a young baby while studying and finishing her final exams — she has had to deal with moving away from Fort McMurray, where she worked for GIR and attended Keyano college, to Edmonton. But she’s had good role models.
“My mother, my grandmother, and the women before me had it really tough,” Melanie says: “If my grandmother could raise kids in the bush, I could do this.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t enjoy her time in Edmonton. She thinks it’s a great place to meet people and she particularly enjoys her faculty, the Faculty of Native Studies. At the Faculty, they have the First People’s House, a gathering space for Aboriginal students, as well as other opportunities to connect with her heritage and culture. These things are important to Melanie, who is especially is interested in native ceremonies, dances, pow-wows, crafts and anything cultural.
This is knowledge she hopes to use when she is finished her studies. She aspires to give back to her community by sharing her knowledge about history, decolonization, and other aspects of her heritage that touch her community directly.