Getting the vaccine to me means I can return to my home community. I was born and raised in Pimicikamak Cree Nation. I come from a large family of 14 siblings, and 26 nieces and nephews. I grew up in a house that was always full. In that chaos there was always space for love, community and support. Being the only sibling living in Winnipeg and having all my family back home, it’s been tough coping with the loneliness now that I can’t go home and visit. Even if I could go home, I couldn’t gather with my family because of the possibility of exposing the virus to each other. I have grandparents and family with underlying health issues. Getting the vaccine means I can be a family again with my family.
I’m 21 now. While being a full-time student in Political Science and Indigenous Studies, I was working part-time as the North American Indigenous Games assistant and a traveling sport facilitator, mostly for wrestling and canoeing. I’ve spent time working in different reserves across Manitoba and in different parts of the city of Winnipeg. I ran sports workshops and taught community members how to run weeklong programs for the youth. After losing my job to COVID-19, I was devastated. Now I’m a youth addictions counsellor at Neecheewam, a community-based organization.
Being a young Indigenous woman, it’s important for me to be that representation. When I was that “rez kid” growing up, it was super important for me to see Indigenous women in leadership positions. I’ve had some inspiring Indigenous female coaches, teachers, mentors, coworkers, bosses, best friends, etc.
You can only connect with people to a certain extent online. I would much rather get back to the communities and work one-on-one, or in a group setting with adults and youth in person. I feel you connect better in person, and when you find that connection and reach people, there is usually space for inspiration and motivation to grow.
Growing up on “the rez” you don’t have the same opportunities as someone living in the city. A lot of the people I grew up with—including myself—felt the hopelessness and depression that comes from being isolated on the reserve. I want to give people hope, the same way people before me did. Getting the vaccine not only combats the virus itself, but it can help to restore and make room for new opportunities to grow and inspire.