By Laura McCaffrey
Samantha Maracle’s (BSc/74) childhood was idyllic. Just hearing about it invokes an instant feeling of nostalgia—a profound longing for simpler, humbler, better days.
She grew up on her family’s farm: a sprawling property within the Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation bordering the Bay of Quinte. She lived with her parents and grandparents and fondly recalls growing up with and among nature: strolling through the farm, collecting fresh spring water, picking rose hips for tea, growing and harvesting fresh fruit and vegetables, and learning how to make traditional corn soup from her grandmother.
Tyendinaga was (and is) a community comprising genuinely kind individuals who appreciate above all else the value of education, honesty and integrity—values that Samantha has internalized and carried with her throughout her life and career.
While her life has taken her away from Tyendinaga, the community still has a piece of Samantha’s heart.
“I love going back to visit Tyendinaga; it is still my home,” Samantha shares. “Things have changed so much since I was a kid—but the values are still there. Just reflecting on what I learned there about strength, courage, hope and purpose, makes it very special. I learned the most important lesson of my life there: Always do the right thing. Always live with integrity and honesty.”
It was this ongoing connection to her community, her passion for education and her fond memories of her time at Carleton University that drove her to partner with Carleton to establish a first-of-its-kind bursary: the Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation Education Bursary. This endowed bursary will provide support to youth living on the Tyendinaga territory, allowing Samantha to give back to her community through Carleton and directly support Tyendinaga youth on their journeys to attend university.
Samantha’s father was a farmer. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he and Samantha’s mother eventually moved back to Tyendinaga—his birthplace—with dreams of buying property, living off the land and being closer to their families. Over the years, he acquired several plots of land, including a lakefront cabin that came to be Samantha’s favourite spot to escape and spend some time on her own during her childhood and adolescence.
Being an only child, Samantha eventually inherited all of the land her father had amassed over the years. And throughout her lifetime, she has gradually transferred most of it to Tyendinaga family, friends and community members—all but the lakefront property.
“That property was special to me; I held onto it all of my life,” Samantha recalls. “But as I don’t have any children, there was no one to inherit it. So, I started to think about what I could do with it. I visited Tyendinaga three times last year as I tried to decide what to do.
“I met with several people at the Band Office to discuss my property and how I could help with education—something that is very important within the community. When I graduated from high school, I was the only Tyendinaga student to apply to university; I was therefore able to secure financial support from what was then Indian Affairs Canada. The director for post-secondary education at the Band Office explained that that is no longer the case; with hundreds of Tyendinaga youth applying to community college and university, there are not enough funds to go around.
“After deciding to part with my lakefront property, I knew that I wanted my estate to go full-circle back to the Mohawk people of the Bay of Quinte. Given the challenges in my community to support Tyendinaga youth in pursuing postsecondary education, an endowed bursary seemed to be the answer.”
Lisa and Tom Maracle, Samantha’s cousins who work in construction and land development, agreed to a transfer of the lakefront property and to get involved in the endowment along with Samantha. The proceeds of the land transfer will be going back into the community by helping to fund the bursary.
“This is my way of respecting the land that will always be a part of me. The land is a part of my father’s—and my family’s—legacy. And now that legacy can live on through this endowment,” Samantha shares.
As the result of her passion for this project, her commitment to her community and the subject-matter expertise she had developed through years as a seasoned fundraising professional, Samantha had a clear vision in mind for the bursary. After first approaching another university due to its proximity to Tyendinaga, Samantha quickly understood the institutional obstacles that made her concept challenging to implement. But she wasn’t willing to compromise on the purpose of the bursary.
So, she reached out to Carleton, her alma matter—an institution that shares her belief that education can and should bolster our communities and be a catalyst for positive change—and found a perfect fit.
“This type of bursary—one that is only available to students living on a specific Indigenous territory—was something we had never offered before,” explains Holly Greatrex, associate director of planned giving in Carleton’s Department of University Advancement. “In fact, it took a lot of inter-departmental collaboration and required us to put in place new processes. But after hearing Samantha’s story, we were determined to work with her to make a difference in her community.”
Representatives from Carleton’s Department of University Advancement, Awards and Financial Aid Office and Centre for Indigenous Initiatives met several times to collaboratively develop process solutions to bring Samantha’s vision to life. And during each meeting, Samantha’s wishes were kept top of mind.
“It’s critical to work with Indigenous communities in setting up awards like this, as First Nation, Inuit and Metis people understand intimately the challenges faced by Indigenous youth in obtaining a postsecondary education. So, we were thrilled to connect with Samantha in order to create this bursary,” shares Benny Michaud, director of Carleton’s Centre for Indigenous Initiatives. “By working with community partners, like Samantha, we can set up awards that will genuinely make a difference in these students’ lives.
“As part of the ‘Kinamagawin: Learning Together’, Carleton’s Indigenous Strategy that was released in May, Carleton is committed to improving pathways and access to postsecondary education. This includes improving funding opportunities, awards and grants so that students can make coming to Carleton a reality. This new award will help in that process and will also hopefully encourage more students from Tyendinaga to join our campus community.”
As the bursary began to take shape, Samantha knew she wanted to involve her family.
She explains: “I felt it was important to involve relatives who are younger than me and who have an interest in ensuring the integrity of the endowment after my death. My cousin Patti Howitt, who helped me envision the bursary, and her two daughters, Emma and Sarah, are named as representatives. Lisa and Tom (who also attended Carleton) and their daughter Savana will also help ensure this endowment grows in perpetuity.”
Additionally, Samantha believes that this bursary will be special to the student recipients as the result of their shared culture and history. “As the recipients will all live on the reserve,” she says, “I think the bursary will be close to their hearts. They will be able to go see the land that funded the bursary and that enabled them to attend Carleton.”
Samantha hopes that the students, like her family, will feel a responsibility to maintain the bursary down the road and continue the legacy of supporting Tyendinaga youth together.
Ultimately, Samantha is grateful for the opportunity to work with Carleton on an initiative aligned with her passion for education—giving through Carleton back to her community.
“The Carleton team found a way to completely exceed my expectations: they provided matching funding for my gift,” she shares. “That really showed me that Carleton genuinely cares about Indigenous students and shared my commitment to making this dream a reality. It truly touched my heart.”
With the support of Carleton and her family, Samantha is eager to get the Mohawk community and other personal and professional contacts involved. Leveraging her large network and fundraising experience, she plans to “circulate the bursary details to various people who may be interested in helping to sustain its funding.”
“This endowment,” she says, “is a unique place where we can make legacy gifts honouring the Maracle family and other Mohawk families that made this all possible. Involvement from many people and a strong partnership between my family, the Mohawk community and Carleton University will result in the biggest impact for Tyendinaga youth.”
And, through word of mouth of the success of this bursary, Samantha hopes that other Tyendinaga community members will be motivated to develop similar models at other colleges and universities.
“If everyone considered future generations and saw the benefits of philanthropy, there would be a more sustainable future for the education of Indigenous students.”
At the Hub for Good, read more partnership stories, explore opportunities to get involved and learn how Carleton University makes an impact around the world.
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