Hometown (Nation): Slave Lake, AB (Driftpile Cree Nation)
Graduation Year: May 2015
Degree Specialization: FNIS Major, Political Science Minor
Research Practicum Topic: Queer Indigenous Feminism & Performance Art
After a difficult first year at UBC, I struggled to find something I was passionate about. My father suggested I take an FNIS course while I figured out what I wanted to major in. That first FNSP 100 course was one of the most challenging, but most rewarding experiences in university I had. The amount of personal unlearning I had to do about myself as a queer Indigenous person and the issues my community face transformed what I thought was possible in a classroom. It quickly became apparent that a lot of what I thought to be true about myself and Indigenous people I had learned throughout my life needed to be challenged; before I took FNIS I thought I knew everything I needed to know about Canada and Indigenous people. While I started out as a Political Science Major and FNIS Minor, I found myself taking more and more FNIS courses and less and less POLI. I feared being too specialized by switching my major from Political Science but have learned through experience that my degree has offered me more opportunities than I could have imagined in school. Throughout my years in the Program, the more courses I took, the more opportunity I saw for myself, my community, and for the program! I ended up with my FNIS degree because I loved the professors, the courses, and my peers so much; how could I saw no?
Am I allowed to say all? FNIS 452: Indigenous Social Movements and FNIS 451 Indigenous Feminisms both explore the importance of women and queer, trans, and Two-spirit people and our connections to land and community. These courses really shaped my writing style, made me ask a lot of important self-reflective questions, and made me a better writer, scholar, and community member. I was able to use skills from these courses in upper-level classes, such as POLI 449B: Theorizing Indigenous Politics. POLI 562A: Global Indigenous Politics was such a great course where I got to take everything I learned and apply it in a global context and think about how Indigenous struggles in Canada are unique and distinct from other movement across the globe, all while bearing witness to our resistance of colonialism as a powerful tool of unification. The Program also offered FNIS 401F: Indigenous New Media, which pulled together my interests in music, art, social media, digital media, and critical Indigenous theory. To top it all off, I got to do a research project on the intersections of all things feminist, queer, and Indigenous within the FNIS 400: Practicum and my placement at the grunt gallery under Tarah Hogue.
I think the community the Program brings together for students has been responsible for many of the best memories. Being the President of the First Nations Studies Student Association (FNSSA) during my time at UBC, I had the opportunity to be witness to a number of amazing events and community-based initiatives. I think the fondest memories were whenever we were able to bring people together over the issues we were passionate about. Whether it was presenting at student conferences on campus, hosting a fundraiser at the longhouse, grabbing pizza at DD's, organizing the annual Pow-wow, or just studying together in the lounge, times were always good when we were together. (Special shout-out to Koerner’s Pub and the Gallery for keeping it real!)
Leading up to graduation I was working for an Indigenous consulting firm, which gave me an opportunity to learn how to collect and apply qualitative and quantitative data in report writing and research documents. After I graduated, I was offered a contract at Homeward Trust Edmonton in Planning & Research. After a few months, I was hired on full-time as a Coordinator of Planning & Engagement where I have been now for 3 years. In this role, I get to support community engagement efforts to end homelessness in Edmonton, where Indigenous people are over-represented. I also sit as a chair of the Community Services Granting Committee at the Edmonton Community Foundation, where we allocate funding throughout the year to organizations and agencies in the community services sector. From when my time started at UBC to my current position, I've had opportunities from social work, government policy, granting bodies, and curriculum development positions. I've found that this degree has really offered me a diverse skill-set, which has translated to diverse opportunities outside of the classroom.
If you're interested in challenging yourself, getting involved with a passionate student & staff community, and are generally curious about Indigenous issues, then I say try out FNIS and see how it goes. In my opinion, everyone should take at least the introductory. You're going to learn a lot about the world, but a surprising amount about yourself too. The skills you’ll get from this degree are going to translate to a lifetime of wonderful, self-reflexive work. I wouldn’t trade my experience with FNIS for anything.
I would just tell them that they're going to be fine. Remember that the work you're doing is important, but that you are human too. Make your deadlines, take care of your relationships with your organizations and with each other, and don't forget to make it fun too. Just because something is important doesn't mean you can't laugh once and awhile. Be forgiving of yourself when things go awry and be forgiving of others when things get tough. Finishing your degree and doing your practicum are not easy feats so celebrate your achievements along the way! Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and hold each other up. I don’t remember the tests I failed or the papers I made mistakes in, I remember the people that were there for me and that I was there for. It all comes back to community!