Read the transcript below to learn more about Emily and the impactful work she’ll be doing with the W̱SÁNEĆ Lands Trust Society.

Interviewer: Can you tell me a bit about who you are and where you’re from?

I grew up in Prince George, and I have heritage from Spuzzum First Nation on my dad’s side. He was adopted out of his community as a baby into a settler family. So we don’t have much connection to our Indigenous roots. We have status cards that say our nation and that’s about all we really knew as kids. My mom is from England. She came to Canada on her own when she was 19 years old just to visit and then she met my dad and got married. As I got older, I wanted to find some connection to my heritage, but it’s been a long journey. I’ve done some research, and I’ve been in contact and visited my band up in the Fraser Canyon. 

Interviewer: What kind of work will you be doing with the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council?

My official title here is Intern. When I first started, I did research on W̱SÁNEĆ history and what a Land Trust is and how I could contribute to the team. The team threw out some ideas on how I could be of assistance, using my background in early learning to share plant knowledge, land-based learning, helping with fundraisers, or just any kind of community involvement. But these are just ideas and potential avenues for me as I’m still quite new here.

We also discussed looking into ȾIKEL, the wetland that was returned. I was just sent some information to review on that today, so I may go in that direction too. But I’m also willing to hop onto any project to help, be a shadow, or do whatever needs to be done. 

Interviewer: Can you share some of the background and experience you bring to this position?

After high school, I moved to Vancouver on my own and looked for direction on what to do for a career for a while. Then, I found my own healing through herbal medicine, which spiked my interest in natural healing. So, I decided to take a herbal medicine course at Pacific Rim College and ended up falling in love with the Island.

I had planned to go back to Vancouver after the certificate was over, but I ended up staying. 

I knew I had a passion for childcare and thought that it would be good to combine it with land-based learning. So I ended up taking a diploma program with Camosun College at the Saanich Adult Education Center, called ‘Indigenous Early Learning & Care,’ which was the first Early Learning & Care (ELC) program that had an Indigenous lens. I was in the community here in Tsartlip, and a lot of my classmates were actually from W̱SÁNEĆ. This program incorporated elders’ knowledge, land-based learning, food connection, and plant gardens. So that laid the foundation for me to do my schooling here. 

My plan was to get my diploma and transfer into 3rd year Child & Youth Care (CYC) at the University of Victoria (UVic) because although I was interested in early learning, my overall goal was to work as a Social Worker within an Indigenous stream. I was enrolled at UVic for September 2021, but during the summer of  2021, I got an interview at IRCC through their Human Resource Manager, who offered me a position there. After that, my direction took a big turn, and I ended up getting fast-tracked into an Immigration Officer. 

Months prior I had applied to the Indigenous Internship Leadership Program (IILP) through VIU which sends your resume off to different areas of employment. My resume got picked up within the Federal Government and I started on a two year term. A part of that term is to do an external placement within an Indigenous organization while the government continues to pay my salary with hopes to give back and build reciprocal relationships. That’s how I got placed with the W̱SÁNEĆ Land Trust Society (WLTS) for six months. During that two-year term, I got pregnant with my daughter and ended up going on maternity leave and was unable to complete the external placement until now. 

Interviewer: What kind of impact do you hope to have during your time with the WLC?

I think it would be amazing to be apart of some hands-on work at ȾIKEL. I’m not sure if that’s going to be within the six months that I’m here, but I would love to help with that since it’s a great advertisement for how powerful landback can be. I’d also love some involvement with some of the Childcare Centers here or at the Tribal School; anything hands-on that I could help with, like fundraisers, I would enjoy.

Interviewer: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I love to be outdoors, exploring all over the island. If my family and I have spare time, we explore a new location. We actually moved to Calgary for a year during my maternity and only recently came back in November of last year. Coming back really renewed how much I love this place and how much I love being outdoors, especially now that I have a little child. Whenever we’re in a funk, we go outside, and it’s instantly all better.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you’d like community members to know?

I was very grateful to attend school here and do my diploma with Camosun. It was a very healing experience for me. I gained a lot of connection through my classmates. I was able to use their territory as a place to grow myself. So coming back after my school experience to give back to the community is very meaningful to me. It’s a nice full-circle moment.

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