It was a total surprise for Tammie Kendall and Delores Dante, a pair of teachers at St. Paul Elementary School, to learn they were honoured by the Blackfoot community for their dedication to education.

“This was like a dream come true, to be chosen by people outside of the school, rather than just the students. This was an honour that someone would choose me,” Dante said.

The recognition was just as humbling for Kendall.

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“I’m so excited. I want to do them proud and I have lots to learn from them.”

Kendall has been teaching at St. Paul for nine years. Blackfoot elder Andrew Black Plume said her devotion to students and the Blackfoot community made her the perfect candidate for a Blackfoot name.

“For Mrs. Kendall, I chose Eagle Woman (Piitaki) for reasons like the eagle is special in our culture, what he does with his family, those little chicks, he takes care of them, just as she is doing with the native students,” said Black Plume, who chose both names for the women.

Dante has been teaching at St. Paul for 45 years, educating multiple generations of the same family.

“Mrs. Dante, I thought about my mother, I never called her mother in my life, I call her Na’a. In Blackfoot that’s what mother means. She is like a mother to all the students here and for the years she has put in,” Black Plume said.

Both women said they understand the significance of their names.

“We are on our journey right not to reconciliation — truth and reconciliation — and it is my job and my duty to make those wrongs right again,” Kendall said. “I want my students, especially the Indigenous students, to come to school and never ever feel that they are not loved for and cared for and are important.”

“My children in the classroom have always been my family,” Dante added. “So to be given the name of mother, that was the most extraordinary word that they could have chosen for a name for me.”

The Blackfoot names could not be more fitting for two women who’ve dedicated their careers to making a difference.

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