Vibrant Communities Speaker Series – Braiding Stories to Live By: The Next Generations of Indigenous Young Women
Join us for a conversation with the Braiding Stories to Live By team and hear more about the inspiration for the Indigenous Young Women’s gatherings that have been piloted here in Fort McMurray. Join in hands-on experiences, sharing of stories and learn how we, as a community, can continue to nurture and support each other as Indigenous women.
Director Dr. Trudy Cardinal says: We are all well aware there is the reality of what it means to be an Indigenous woman in today’s society. Social media, news and our own life experiences have shown that there is indeed a need for a stronger rallying around our young women as the statistics of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (Government of Canada, 2017) become more public and we are tasked with having to carry this story too as part of who we are. We are also aware of what I call a “statistically dismal story” (Cardinal, 2014, p. 39) where, because we were born Indigenous, the odds of our success, or even survival, is not in our favour. This is a reality that I honour and attend to however it is not the only reality that I know, or that I live, and so I want to also take this opportunity to acknowledge the strength, the resilience, the beauty and the amazing lives that women live now, have lived in the past and will continue to weave into the lives they compose in the future. As we shift our gaze from seeing Indigenous young woman from a deficit lens, to seeing them as full of promise and possibility, we shift the energy from one of fear, to one of love. This does not mean we forget the danger but instead we look at it from a place of strength and solidarity. As one strand, one Indigenous young woman alone, is more vulnerable but when we understand that we are the result of the love of thousands of our ancestors, and we braid together as in an inter-generational gathering of strong Indigenous women, we become a powerful force to reckon with.
Braiding Stories to Live By: Indigenous Young Women’s Gatherings (BSTLB) is inspired by a desire to co-create a gathering place for young Indigenous women’s, alongside of other generations of Indigenous women, where together we can inquire into what it means to celebrate who we are as Indigenous women; to acknowledge the self-worth, pride and respect of self and others that we already carry and that we will continue to nurture. We will gather to share and deepen our understanding of cultural values embedded in the Indigenous languages that are our birthright and blood memory. The Indigenous young women, for whom this gathering will serve, are the next generations who will define what it means to be a contemporary Indigenous young woman and how it is they will honor the wisdom of their grandmothers, respect the gift they were given for this human experience, and create a future that will be even better than the one we might imagine for them. They are the keeper of the Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing and they too get to decide how it is they will live miyo pimâtisiwin (a good life).
Each summer we invite Indigenous young women ages 10 to 16 to come alongside Elders, knowledge holders, mentors and community members to gather for 5 days to participate in a variety of experiences that honour their whole beings: emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. From the Elders and knowledge holders we will learn the wisdom of the grandmothers. From community guests we will learn about contemporary wellness and wisdom practices. With the team we will create edible and beautiful snacks; engage in a variety of artistic creative experiences; make use of the beauty of the site and go outside to enjoy the summer weather; while always taking this opportunity to think about who we are, and are becoming as Indigenous young women. We are expanding the program to now include evening gatherings every other month to continue building relationships and nurturing the vibrant inter-generational gathering of Indigenous women.
When: Wednesday December 4th, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM MST
Where: Nistawoyou Friendship Centre, 8310 Manning Avenue, Fort McMurray, AB
Reserve your free tickets on our Eventbrite page.
Meet Our Guest Speakers
Trudy Cardinal – Director and co-creator
Dr. Trudy Cardinal is a Métis/Cree associate professor from Northern Alberta who currently works at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Originally from Slave Lake, she spent most of her life growing up in the communities of Wabasca, Slave Lake and High Prairie. She was an Elementary teacher for 13 years before going on to graduate school to obtain first her masters then her doctorate. She was invited by the committee to become part of the team and create a rural program designed for Indigenous young women. Inspired by the on-campus Cree language and culture day camp: Young Indigenous Women’s Circle of Leadership, she drew on her own research with a focus on identity and in particular the ways Indigenous young women negotiate who they are and are becoming in the midst of the stories told to, by and about them. With her daughter she began to co-create, the Braiding Stories to Live By ~ Indigenous Young Women’s Summer Gathering. The intent was to co-create, in community, with community members and allow the gathering to unfold and become with the input first of the community women, part of the team, and then with the young women themselves.
Link to an interview with Trudy
Kyla is a Métis woman from the town of High Prairie, Alberta. Kyla enjoys practicing a healthy, active lifestyle with her daughter. She enjoys continually learning about her culture and spirituality through her Reiki practice, yoga, meditation and time outdoors. Kyla attended Grant MacEwan University and since then brings with her a wealth of knowledge gained from various positions that promote her passion for the wellbeing of youth and their families. From her earlier roles such as a Parent Educator in St Albert supporting young moms and their babies, to her current position as an Indigenous Liaison for the Catholic School board, she creates welcoming spaces by bringing her artistic abilities, her creative vision and her ability to connect with children, youth and families. She is enthusiastic about helping to co-create a gathering and a strong intergenerational circle to surround Indigenous young women. Drawing together the people who have guided her along her path in Fort McMurray in the creation of the Braiding Stories to Live By team, Kyla hopes to help create a space where Indigenous young women can come to explore who they are, and who they are becoming.
As a young Métis woman born and raised in Fort McMurray, Alyssa brings a connection to the larger community including the Nistawoyou Friendship centre. Through previous experiences she’s obtained extensive knowledge for creating and implementing various youth programs in the Wood Buffalo region and surrounding Indigenous communities. She also brings her passion for health, wellness, nutrition and yoga to the gathering. As a mother of two young children, and working closely with children, youth and families in her role as an Indigenous Liaison, she will help to create a warm and nurturing environment where the young women feel welcomed but also see the many ways one can be Métis while drawing on the wisdom of the grandmothers, as well as knowledge from today and other traditions to create a holistic and well-balanced life.
Elder Pollyanna McBain
Elder Pollyanna McBain, a Mi’kmaq woman from the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She is currently a Cultural Navigator for the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education Program for the Fort McMurray Public School Board. Because the Braiding Stories to Live By Gathering is designed to be inclusive and inviting to all the Indigenous young women of Fort McMurray and surrounding area we were excited to include Elder Pollyanna, who while not originally of the community, has been here since 2014 and created strong connections and is able to build relationships to First Nations, Metis and Inuit of the Wood Buffalo region. With her extensive Indigenous knowledge, women’s teachings and storytelling ability she will share her wisdom as we gather together. Pollyanna worked for Indigenous & Northern Development as an Employment Equity Coordinator & Funding Services, Social Assistance Administrator for her community, Intervener/Support worker for Child & Family Services. She also attended UNB Indigenous Business.
Read a recent Your McMurray magazine featuring Pollyana.
Cree Language & Cultural Knowledge Holder Julia McDougall
Julia McDougall currently works as a Pedagogical Supervisor – Language and Culture for the Northland School Division No. 61. She brings to the Indigenous young women’s summer gathering extensive knowledge of Cree Language and teachings of the northern Alberta Cree Peoples. Over her career she has worked with families, Elders, school and communities in her efforts to support children and youth to be strong in identity, healthy and successful. Julia has a Bachelor of Education from the First Nations University of Canada. Her degree includes a Native Studies major and a minor in Cree Language/Linguistics. As a fluent Cree speaker with familial knowledge of this land she will support the young women and the team to deepen their own connections to this land, their own culture and to beauty of Indigenous language.