Thomas Benjoe is a well-rounded alumnus.
By day, he is a Commercial Account Manager, aboriginal banking specialist, and by night he is an artist who beads the crown for the First Nations University of Canada Princess.
“I’ve been beading since I was nine,” says Thomas. “My aunt taught me how, I’ve created my own style.”
He graduated from FNUniv in 2011 with a degree in Business and now works with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) as an account manager.
He’s been beading the crown for the past four years. Last year, the university presented a sash, which Thomas fully beaded as well. He says the crown typically takes 100-150 hours to make; the sash takes 350-400 hours to complete.
“It’s a year-long process for me to really think about and making sure that the design has meaning, I always try to change it up,” he says.
Thomas starts the beadwork two months before the crowning date and says that he is fairly quick, but doesn’t get much sleep. Working a full time job, and when he is not in meetings, he tries to bead as much as possible.
“My lunch hours or really late at night is when I bead,” says Thomas.
He hasn’t found a lot of men who share an interest in beading and who are as accomplished as him.
“I think it’s because they are a lot quieter about it. I always make fun, people ask if I use a thimble, I tell them no because it’s kind of sexist, they don’t make thimbles big enough for men,” he chuckles.
It’s an honor to represent the university for the women crowned FNUniv Princess, and Thomas likes giving them something that they are proud to wear.
“It’s a bit of an excitement, seeing people’s reactions to a lot of the beadwork that I do,” he says.
Being able to help out with the powwow is just another way of giving back for Thomas and helping keep the cultural traditions alive at the university. He says he was always connected with his culture; but, being here [FNUniv] has helped him to express it even more and take pride in his identity.