Turtle Spirit Pathway Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Students


Turtle Spirit Pathway Award

This award assists First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Students who are entering the University of Alberta and who have demonstrated financial challenges and barriers to attending university. Through the program, students will be considered for up to $8,000 per year in award funding. Up to 20 new students per year will qualify for the award. 

Naming of the Award

The naming of the award was developed in consultation with Elders in-residence at the University’s First Peoples' House. In addition to its reference to Turtle Island, what some Indigenous people refer to as North America1, the turtle is honoured for the values it represents. The turtle moves forward slowly, but with intent and a singular goal. The spirit of the turtle represents truth, patience, determination, endurance, and the importance of being “slow and steady” in one’s approach.

In decision-making, an Indigenous person often takes into account the following considerations: thinking back seven generations and what our ancestors would expect of us and looking forward seven generations to consider how a decision made today would impact them. The turtle symbolizes some of the values that result from taking our time in making a decision: consideration, caring, sharing, kindness, forgiveness, support, and comfort. 


  • Elder Francis Whiskeyjack, Saddle Lake First Nation 
  • Elder Elsey Gauthier, Saddle Lake First Nation
  • Access Award Program Working Group - Indigenous Subcommittee:
    • Fiona Halbert, Assistant Registrar, Student Financial Support
    • Brett Buchanan, Team Lead, Student Financial Support
    • Lindsay Moores, Financial Aid Coordinator, Student Financial Support
    • Trevor Phillips, Métis, Manager of Indigenous Recruitment
    • Jessie Letendre, Métis, Acting Director, First Peoples’ House

1Turtle Island 2021, Canadian Encyclopedia, accessed October 21, 2021.

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility criteria includes the following:

  • Admissibility to an undergraduate direct-entry program without having completed any post-secondary coursework OR currently enrolled in the Transition Year Program without having completed prior coursework at the University of Alberta.
  • Self-declaration as Indigenous, with accompanying documentation. Documentation requirements include one of the following: 
    • A certified copy of a Status card from the Government of Canada.
    • A certified copy of a Métis membership card from one of the five Métis Provincial Affiliates (Métis Nation of Alberta, Métis Nation of Ontario, Manitoba Métis Federation, Métis Nation Saskatchewan, or Métis Nation British Columbia). Additionally, the student may present a membership card for the Métis Settlements General Council.
    • A certified copy of a Nunavut Trust Certificate card.
    • Documentation that an ancestor’s name has been entered 1) in the Indian Register according to the Indian Act, or 2) on the band list of an individual band, or 3) as beneficiaries of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement or other claim regions such as Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and Inuvialuit.
    • Written confirmation of Indigenous identity from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada or Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.
    • Written confirmation of membership by a band council which has enacted its own band membership code.
  • Demonstration of financial challenges and barriers to attending university.

Prepare to Apply

Using the Medicine Wheel as a guide, we are interested in learning more about your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state in this application. As part of the award application, you will be asked to provide the following:

  • Short answers providing a brief overview of your current life circumstances and physical state.
  • Long answers highlighting your education goals and more detail about the relevant financial and life circumstance challenges you may be facing. This section will focus more on your mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. When providing long answers, be clear and concise, provide specific examples where you can, show your passion and put things in your own words. We want to get to know you better!
  • A support reference that provides us with an additional perspective on who you are as an individual. They will not be required to submit a reference at the time of application submission, but will be contacted by the University of Alberta at a later date if needed. We recommend choosing a support reference who has firsthand knowledge of your educational goals and life circumstances.

Tips for Applying

  • Apply early! This application requires thoughtful reflection and should not be rushed.
  • Consider the turtle spirit and take a "slow and steady" approach. Carefully read all sections of the application and complete them to the best of your ability.
  • Work on your application in a document outside of the scholarship application form to check for spelling and grammar errors and to avoid technical problems in the application. 
  • Save your application often to ensure you do not lose your progress!
  • If you encounter technical issues or have questions about the application, email awards@ualberta.ca.

How to Apply

  1. Apply for admission to your desired program to receive a CCID and password to apply for scholarships. Please note it can take 2-3 business days for a CCID to be generated.
  2. Apply online from October 1, 2023 - February 15, 2024. Offers will begin mid-April. 

If you have a permanent disability and need accessibility support to complete your application, apply for applicant accommodations or contact dosdean@ualberta.ca.