During my work at Indian Affairs, I was given availability to work with the trappers and the fisherman from the First Nations. This led me to do things like being part of the Trappers Association.
Also I had my sense of doing many extracurricular, I guess, activities in my world. I’ve done things like believing that people can become facilitators. This type of training was provided to the indigenous field which was run by Terri Barber Management, which was entitled “Indigenous Phoenix," which helped individuals to raise their self-esteem to feel that they were important and that they could contribute to the rest of the world.
Through the training, many First Nations were able to have access to it and it's now playing on APTN. My role through all of this was to help to put the program together so my input into it was just my ideas from the aboriginal perspective.
As time went on I went on in my work with Indian Affairs. I became, I wanted to go out and go on special assignment with the First Nations. I was given time to go Saddle Lake First Nation to work at their band administration for awhile and to work with public works. This gave me ideas of how I could help at the First Nations level to actually see my First Nation over come many of the challenges that were being brought onto them from doing this; like financial accountability to recording documents that Indian Affairs would want them to provide before funding could be released.
I had fun working at the community level. I found that my people were very humorous individuals. They would tell you stories for different things. It was nice. I really liked working there. There was many challenges because I felt I had to prove that I was of value and to gain respect from individuals at the band levels. I had to come and earn my stripes so I could be trusted because as a ‘bureaucrat’ which I was called on many occasions, I felt I had to do things to prove that I could do the work just as well as anybody else, as other field services officers who were being brought to the community level.
After my work with Saddle Lake I decided to call it quits I retired from the federal civil service which brings me to the beginning of going for my MBA for my masters in Business Admin from Athabasca U. Even the letter that Athabasca sent me was a great accomplishment because I know they don’t send these letters out of acceptance for individuals just because you're whatever. I had to prove to them that I was worth their time and effort to teach that I could in my world become a model for other First Nation members and I thought if I could contribute in this way, in my learning and my education then so many others, my cohorts from university that.
There was things that First Nations people could provide to the rest of the world it gave me an opportunity to show them that we as First Nations people can contribute to the rest of the world and they do have things that they can learn from us as much as we can learn from them.
The following stories are by Leona Shirt.
This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections Initiative, Industry Canada.