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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


September 6, 2003 - Issue 95


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First Native Woman Helicopter Pilot

by Pearl Tsang Calgary Herald

Calgary, AB - With a few more hours of flying time, Coby Marsh, 25, will likely be the first Native woman in Canada to obtain a helicopter pilot license.

Marsh, a member of the Lax Kw'alaams Band in northern British Columbia, has passed her written Transport Canada exam and is close to logging the required number of flying hours to qualify for a license.

She came to Calgary four years ago to enroll in the flight school. Living with relative, she worked at a bakery and a construction company to save money for her tuition.

A student loan and donations from Treaty 7 and the Lax Kw'alaams Band helped her meet the costs of the "$46,000 course.

Marsh said it's been a long, but worthwhile journey. "I've always been interested in flying, so I looked into it and pursued it and her I am," she said.

Marsh has been around flying machines all her life, from making visits to her grandparents in rural British Columbia to taking topographic photographs for her high school.

Now that Marsh has competed the five-month ground school and air training at Bighorn Helicopters Flight School, in Springbank, she is planning to extend her stay at the school to work for the summer. But, she has her eye on the future.

"I want to become a part of a seach-and-rescue team or coast guard." she said, adding that she will go where a job lands her, but wants to be near the ocean again.

Putting up with challenges

Marsh wasn't sure about the lessons in the beginning, but knew if she wanted something badly enough, she had to work hard for it.

Instructor Paul Bergeron credits Marsh's persistence for her success and achievements.

"She was this young female who wanted to fly and she showed dedication and commitment right from the start," he said. "To be a helicopter pilot, you have to be able to put up with the challenges."

He said helicopter training is extremely difficult and Marsh finished with about-average performances. She was also the first in her class of eight to fly solo.

Marsh's success represents the breakthrough Aboriginal women are making in Canada.

"It's wonderful," said Ruth Kidder, president of the Alberta Aboriginal Woman's Society.

"This says that Aboriginal women are finally looking at other areas rather than at traditional women's jobs," said Kidder, adding this has been a trend for the past few years and is happening faster than people realize.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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