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Being a part of change


Peyton Juhnke is focused on building a better future for Indigenous Peoples.

Peyton, who was UNB Fredericton’s Valedictorian for the Class of 2021, graduated in May with a bachelor of philosophy in interdisciplinary leadership from Renaissance College. A dean’s list student throughout her degree, she was also one of the Indigenous co-representatives for the Renaissance College Society.

Peyton received numerous scholarships and awards while at UNB. Among these were the Patricia & Charles MacDonald Scholarship, funded by Charles MacDonald, and the Jennifer Prosser Wade Scholarship, funded by Dr. Jennifer A. Wade, OBC (BA ’58, DLITT ’96).

In 2020, Peyton received the Blue Metropolis Awards for Excellence in Indigenous Studies for her essay, entitled “Indigenous Freedom.” In her essay, Peyton argued for the necessity of dismantling existing political, social and economic policies, and the importance of Indigenous sovereignty.

As part of her degree, Peyton developed the framework for, and completed, an Indigenous studies minor. This minor included an independent study on Indigenous research methodologies with Piluwitahasuwin and Assistant Vice-President Indigenous Engagement Amanda Myran and Indigenous Experiential Education Coordinator Katelyn Copage. Peyton considers this minor a way of advocating for Indigenous knowledge systems and their broader legitimizations within academia.

Since graduation, Peyton has continued her work to affect positive change. Now living in her hometown of Regina, Sask., she is completing a certificate of reconciliation studies through the First Nations University of Canada. She is also working as a research assistant for Morning Star Lodge, an Indigenous community-based health research lab with the University of Saskatchewan.

In her valedictory address, Peyton addressed the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic brought previously obscured injustices to light and expressed hope for her generation’s ability to make change. “In a multitude of ways,” she said, “we have seen with clarity the systems and structures in our society that work to disadvantage and marginalize groups of people. But during this time, we have also seen profound change happen, as people took to the streets to stand with those facing racism and discrimination, challenged the uninformed views of those around them, and used their voice to speak up against injustices. Empower yourself to be part of this change. Listen to those whose voices are too often silenced, and most importantly, never stop learning.

“We are the agents of change, and we get to decide what future we want to create for ourselves and those that will come after us. We have the power to leave things better than when we found them, and we all do this in different ways. Find your path and follow it. I’m leaving UNB with a renewed hope for the future we are building.”

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