I come from the community known as Neyaashiinigmiing, or the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation — also known as Cape Croker Indian Reserve. Located on the shores of Georgian Bay, it is now known as the Bruce Peninsula, or the Saugeen Peninsula to some of us. This place was very influential to me — it is a grounding place that has influenced my decision-making.   

Growing up, we all knew each other, and I could go anywhere within the community and feel taken care of. When I moved off the reserve, the disconnect I felt from my community was hugely impactful. This was the time before long-distance phone plans and the internet, so it was very isolating. I hit a point where I couldn't go any further. I was really missing family and being surrounded by the familiar.  

So I went back. I went back home to the community and our reserve on the peninsula.   

There was an elder who knew what I was going through. He said, “You need to go to the water.” So I did. I spent a lot of time by the water. It was so healing to just sit and be quiet.  

When I left for school, it was just not the right time for me. We believe, in Anishinaabe culture, that the Creator knows your path, that your path is set out before you even arrive. My great-grandmother used to say everything happens for a reason. I used to wonder why she said that, but now I get it. At the time, I was questioning why, and I think I'm still connecting my why. It helps motivate me in what I’m doing today.    

I returned to Waterloo as a staff member and gradually took the required courses to complete my degree. What I experienced pushed me to want to work with and for Indigenous Peoples, which led me to the Office of Indigenous Relations. We're preparing for more Indigenous students coming to campus and building an Indigenous alumni group. Those two things relate because Indigenous alumni have children, myself included. My daughter is coming to Waterloo and hopefully will become an alum — just like her grandmother and me.  

The conversations that we have had with Indigenous alumni echo stories like mine: the feeling of isolation when they've come here. This is why we want to connect with alumni, not only to hear their experiences but to allow those stories to inform what we're doing to build a community where Indigenous people can thrive.  

Seeing all the changes that have occurred since I first stepped ont0 campus has been amazing. I believe in the potential that comes out of here, and I’m proud of the community effort it takes to get all this good work done.