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Aboriginal grandparents teach grandchildren 'who they are', says Roberta Jamieson

Roberta Jamieson has held a number of titles over the past few decades: lawyer, Ontario Ombudsman, Six Nations Chief. But it's her most recent one that she considers the most important — grandmother.

Indigenous woman who has been a lawyer and chief says title of grandmother is special

Roberta Jamieson says the title of grandmother is the most important one ever bestowed on her. She has been a lawyer, ombudsman, chief.

Roberta Jamieson has held a number of titles over the past few decades: lawyer, Ontario Ombudsman, Six Nations Chief. But it's her most recent one that she considers the most important: grandmother.

"That's the most special obligation I have, to be a Dudah," she told CBC's Metro Morning on Monday, a day ahead of National Aboriginal Day, when aboriginal culture and accomplishments are celebrated at events across the country.

"Grandparents are a conscience, they are an imparter of wisdom, they are often spoken of as elders. And they have that specific role, to teach and mentor, spend time with grandchildren, making sure they have a firm grounding," she said. "We look seven generations into the future."

Jamieson's long list of accomplishments includes being the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a law degree and the first woman to be elected Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.

Today, she runs the Indigenous education charity Indspire, which gives bursaries to students, offers resources to teachers and highlights success among Indigenous people. She says Indigenous youth face a number of obstacles in finding academic success.

Nearly half of Aboriginal people in Canada have a post-secondary degree, diploma or certificate, compared to two-thirds of non-Aboriginal people, according to Canada's 2011 National Household Survey.

Jamieson says the greatest barrier for Aboriginal young people is lack of financial support.

"Our children are just as gifted as other Canadian youth, but they have an education system that's all too often been chronically under-funded, where they do not have a curriculum and support that honours their culture and identity and language," she said.

"And if they defy all the odds and graduate high school ... we know their greatest obstacle remains the lack of financial support to get through post-secondary."

But despite the efforts she's taking to fight those challenges, she sees her role as a grandmother as the most important.

"It is our job as grandparents to teach our grandchildren who they are, their identity, their values, their culture," Jamieson told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway on Tuesday.

"When we ask students, 'What are the keys to your success, aside from financial support,' they say 'identity', hands down," she said. "If you know who you are and you're secure in that, you can do anything in your life."

with files from Metro Morning

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