Elder, language advocate and teacher set to graduate high school

Bishop has dedicated her life to teaching youth Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì and she's about to graduate high school. (Photo courtesy of Josephine Sangris Bishop)

“After 24 years of working in education, I decided to go back to school.”

Josephine Sangris Bishop, 67, is from Behchokǫ̀. After spending decades teaching youth Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì she is finally going to graduate high school – as a proud Chief Jimmy Bruneau (CJBS) student.

Being retired, “I took six months off to stay home and do nothing. I kind of got a little bit bored,” she said.

With the support of her friends and family, she decided to trade in her needle and thread for some textbooks.

“I kept going to school every day Monday to Friday and it’s been a learning experience for me,” she says. “When I was in school back in the 70s and 80s, it’s not how they taught us like today. It’s totally different.”

Ironically, Bishop says her best subject was English, because of her love of reading and writing. Math, on the other hand, was her biggest challenge.

Bishop has dedicated her life to preserving the Tłı̨chǫ language and ensuring its longevity. Now, even with her diploma, she plans to serve her community through the use of language and culture.

“I really want to help the community, especially about the Tłı̨chǫ language,” she says, “teaching language is so important, I find that young people today do not speak the language.”

Her message to youth is to reach out for help and talk to their parents, especially Elders.

It’s never too late to educate yourself, says Bishop, and she lives by that rule.

As part of her to-do list, Bishop plans on going back to university to complete her linguistics certificate.

Tılı łatsı̨̨ɂa k’e nàwo (standing on a road that splits in two)

All those years ago, Bishop made a choice, “I met my future husband and started my life here in Behchokǫ̀,” she says.

Bishop had five children, tended to the home and worked in the schools around the clock.

“Even though I was working I keept telling myself, ‘Hey Josie, your grade 12 is not completed. You need to do something about it later on in life’.”

Noel Bishop is her husband and biggest supporter.

After 49 years together, Noel says, “When she puts her mind to something, I support whatever she wants to do.”

Noel admits she even taught him a thing or two over the years as well.

Billie Chinkon is a CJBS student who says she was inspired by Bishop’s story.

“I thought it was inspiring to see an elder work towards her high school diploma. I hope that others are inspired to follow their dreams.”

Bishop says being the only Elder in the room was ‘overwhelming’ seeing some of the kids she taught before really put things into perspective.

“I’m just happy I’ve done it. It was hard work. It was a challenge,” she said, “I told myself, you know, whatever, I started here, I’m going to finish it.”

Among her classmates, Bishop will walk down the big stage, diploma in hand on June 27, 2023.

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. On her spare time, you can find her at your local coffee shop writing songs, poetry and prose or at the gym out-lifting men. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com or call 867-766-2552 Ext 108