York University graduate student Brent Debassige is one of 14 Ontario students to receive a 2007 Casino Rama Award for Excellence for postsecondary Aboriginal students. Debassige was chosen from dozens of applicants to the awards program. This is the second straight year that the graduate student in York’s Faculty of Education has received the award.
The adjudication committee selected the final recipients based on an equal ranking of their academic achievement and demonstrated community involvement. In the six years since this program was instituted, The Casino Rama Award for Excellence has become a prestigious award in the area of First Nations education.
A member of M’Chigeeng First Nation in Ontario, Debassige received the $4,500 award for his volunteer work drafting of an alcohol harm reduction policy and for establishing an elders group in his home community. He is currently doing his PhD in York’s Graduate Program in Education where he is examining the impact of indigenous knowledge frameworks (ceremonies) among Anishinaabe people. Debassige is hoping to establish a bicultural educational program with conventional schooling and indigenous knowledge frameworks in his home community.
"I would like to thank Casino Rama and the selection committee for choosing me for this award," said Debassige. "I would also like to thank Donna Bruder [M’Chigeeng community elder] and Professors Celia Haig-Brown and Mary Leigh Morbey [York Faculty of Education] for their valuable contributions. Without the support of leaders in my community and the University, my selection for this award would not have been possible. Miigwetch [Thank you]."
"Brent is doing excellent work, and we appreciate the support shown by Casino Rama for his ongoing studies," said Paul Axelrod, dean of York’s Faculty of Education.
Since opening in 1996, Casino Rama has sponsored hundreds of local events and initiatives, including wellness conferences, support for Native veterans events and initiatives, and First Nations language projects.