An open letter from EA’s founder and CEO, Larry Wilkins, of his $1 million pledge to Indigenous Education and an additional $10,000 for National Indigenous Peoples Day
In light of recent events, my heart is heavy with grief for the 215 children found and that there are potentially thousands more yet to be discovered on residential school sites across Canada. On top of that, I cannot help but think how my ancestors could have shared the same fate and that still today those systemic prejudices against Indigenous Peoples persist. As the second generation to be born off the Reservation, I thank my great grandfather for his bravery and commitment to ensuring a legacy for his people – and this is that story.
In the late 1930’s on the Tyendinaga Reservation in Lake Ontario, my great grandfather lived with his wife and four daughters. As Mohawk people, they resided on the side of the St. Lawrence river living as hunters and fisherman. One day, the Reservation director came to their home to take my grandmother away to a residential school. Running to the nearest town, my great grandfather sold his and his entire family’s Indian rights back to the Government. He then moved them off the Reservation so that he could save his children from the atrocities associated with the Residential School systems.
Despite their new life off the reserve, their Indigenous roots remained strong. Matched by the strength of their beliefs was their newfound gratitude for opportunity. While life on the reserve meant that Indigenous communities could remain together, they lacked access to job opportunities, educational facilities, and most importantly, safety. With the looming threat of his children being taken from him, my great grandfather acknowledged that in order to save the family at that time, he needed to move off the reserve.
“My wife Becky and I pledged $1 million to the Mamawi Atosketan Native School to help fund the construction of their high school to ensure that generations of Indigenous students can thrive.”
With my great grandfather and the 215 children in mind, I chose to support a facility that shares the same understanding of the power that opportunity can have on people. The Mamawi Atosketan Native School (MANS) is a learning community that integrates proven practices of physical, mental, spiritual, and social well- being in a distinctly Cree environment. Located near Ponoka, Alberta, MANS helps students learn everyday in an environment that my ancestors couldn’t. In 2013, my wife Becky and I pledged $1 million to the Mamawi Atosketan Native School to help fund the construction of their high school to ensure that generations of Indigenous students can thrive. We will reach the $1 million mark this year in December.
“In honour of my ancestors and National Indigenous Peoples Day, we are donating an additional $10,000 to ensure Indigenous culture will not only thrive but survive for years to come.”
Today, in honour of my ancestors and National Indigenous Peoples Day, we are donating an additional $10,000 to ensure Indigenous culture will not only thrive but survive for years to come. My great grandfather gave his descendants the greatest gift of all – a chance to do something great despite other institutions’ attempts to dismantle our family.
All I wish is that I can do the same for others. I’ve made it my personal mission to straighten out a few things and help give Indigenous children the same opportunity as every other kid in Canada. It will take generations to repair the damage to the minds of the Indigenous, but I say, let’s get started. Let’s do this thing. Mamawai Atosketan means working together and I believe in Canada and Canadians to work with Indigenous Peoples to make this right. I know we can fix this, but like anything else, we have to get off our asses and get to work. We are on the right path. The time is now to start thinking about our First Nations people.
Founder and CEO
External Affairs Medical Spa