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    Seeds of Success                    Winter 2006

Scoping Out
Aboriginal Acheivers

                       the Cover
                          Alika Lafontaine
                        The doubters didn’t know
                                   him very well

                        Riva Farrell-Racette
                                  is taking a break
                              from teaching to tour

                        Cory Matthews
                                A Lesson in
                          Respect and Pride
The Final Edition                            To our readers:

                                             This is the final edition of Seeds of Success
                                             Magazine, a long-standing partnership between the
                                             Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
                                             and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

                                             Since its inception more than five years ago, Seeds
                                             of Success has generated more than 180 stories,
                                             capturing the dreams, aspirations and
                                             accomplishments of Aboriginal entrepreneurs and
                                             role models in Saskatchewan.

                                             Over the years, the magazine has strived to satisfy a
                                             growing public desire to learn about the significant
                                             accomplishments and contributions of
                                             Saskatchewan's First Nations and Métis people.
                                             Whether in business, education, politics, sports or
                                             the arts, Aboriginal people are on the move, eager to
                                             play a major role in the shaping of this province's
                                             future. We hope Seeds of Success reflected this
                                             reality, and inspired others to make a difference in
                                             their own lives and the lives of others.

                                             During the last five years, other publications have
                                             increased their coverage of Aboriginal achievers,
                                             giving their readers a more complete view of First
                                             Nations and Métis society. This is a welcome

Inside                                       development for all of Saskatchewan's people.

                                             We thank our partners at the Federation, our
     For the Tanner family,                  contributors and, most of all, our readers. It was a
                                             great experience, but it's time to turn the page.
     baseball isn’t just a hobbyt just
                                           05         Tracy Buffalo knows what her clients are going
                                                      through.'t just a hobby
     Life is a zoo and Alex Reid is
     loving it                      03                No matter how bad it gets, Jennifer Brass says at
                                                      least she's not in diver boot camp.'t just a hobby
                                           10         Cory Matthews knows how to overcome obstacles
                                                      in education
     Riva Farrell-Racette is taking
     a break from teaching to tour                                                       Acknowledgements:

                                               Seeds of Success is a quarterly publication produced by Indian and
                                           Northern Affairs Canada, Saskatchewan Region, in partnership with the

     06                                                               Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

                                                        Stories in this issue may be reprinted in whole, or in part,
                                           by contacting the FSIN at (306) 665-1215, Saskatoon, or Trevor Sutter
     Alika Lafontaine’s medical                                                        at (306) 780-6429, Regina.

     career got off with a queazy                                                                 Contributors:

     start                                                           James Parker, Lisa Nidosky and Trevor Sutter
                                                                           Layout and design by Anthony Scales.

     08                        Winter Youth Edition
Playingthe Field
                                                                       It's that determination that keeps her going – that and the
                                                                    support of her family. Her mom says even at a young age
                                                                    Jenna always wanted to excel. Everything for her is a
                                                                    challenge. It's not good enough to be good, she has to be
                                                                    better. That's her motive: if I'm good then I can be better," says
                                                                    mom, Deb.
For the Tanner family, baseball isn't just a hobby                     "Like for supper, if we eat three hamburgers she's got to eat
– it's a way of life.                                               five," adds Rudy with a hearty laugh.
   Dad, Rudy, coaches the Cowessess women's team and                   And in Grade 3, Jenna's Rosemont class received a reading
16-year-old Jenna, a Grade 11 student at Martin Collegiate,         challenge which Jenna surpassed by reading more than 1,000
pitches and plays second base. Her older sister, Lindsay, is        books in a semester. Even now, she's maintaining a 91-per-
also a ball player while mom, Deb, is the manager or "pro           cent average, two part-time jobs (one at California Fitness and
yeller," as the rest of the family calls her.                       helping her parents clean offices) while the majority of her
                                                                    evenings and weekends are spent practising or playing in
      Jenna quickly joins in the teasing, adding her mom has a
                                                                    tournaments. But she manages to find a little time to hang out
tendency to hide behind the bleachers when the pressure's on.
                                                                    with friends and her boyfriend, Jordan, although dad has some
"I walk away and I hide. I miss things because I cover my face,"
                                                                    advice for the young man.
Deb concedes.
                                                                       "She does throw the ball really hard for a small girl. She's
     And just because it's winter doesn't mean things have
                                                                    got really good control. She can pick things off. She can hit
slowed down in the Tanner house. In fact, Jenna has one final
                                                                    targets like nothing – anywhere – she can hit them," Rudy says,
tryout this winter for the North American Indigenous Games
                                                                                       glancing over at Jordan. "You'd be talking
women's ball team, which is playing in Denver,
                                                                                            high for a week."
Colorado this summer. So far, she's made the
first three cuts and has one more to go before                                                 But seriously, Rudy says part of what
she becomes an official member of Team                                                      makes Jenna such a great pitcher is that
Saskatchewan.                                                                               "she has junk on her ball," meaning she
                                                                                            can do it all – drop downs, curve balls,
    The final tryout is being held in Regina this
                                                                                            change ups and risers.
February at one of the local schools.
                                                                                               "And you have to have that kind of
    Jenna's love of baseball began early. Her
                                                                                            stuff to play in the ladies division
dad was always involved in the sport and
                                                                                            because the ladies aren't pushovers,"
Jenna used to go watch his games. And under
                                                                                            Rudy says. "Some of these girls have
her dad's coaching, Jenna began playing with
                                                                                            already played in the world's."
the Cowessess women's team by age 11.
                                                                                               In addition to all her sports
     "I was really scared. When I first went
                                                                                            achievements – all-star second base in
up to bat I was shaking, I was so scared,"
                                                                                            last year's Treaty Four tournament, most
Jenna recalls. "But I'm not scared
                                                                                            valuable player in Gordon's tournament,
anymore. I just have fun now."                                       Jenna Tanner
                                                                                           and a gold medal in the 2005
     She says years of practising with her dad                      Kawacatoose First Nation Summer Games – Jenna's also being
has made her and her sister Lindsay better ball players.            acknowledged for her community involvement and academic
And coach Rudy says his girls didn't get any special                achievements.
treatment. "I used to make the girls stand in one spot
                                                                       She's been on the honour role for the last three years,
and they could only move their arms to catch. They had
                                                                    nominated twice for SaskTel's Aboriginal Youth Awards of
to put one leg back and one leg forward, so they
                                                                    Excellence, won the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian
couldn't get out of the way, and they had to keep still
                                                                    Nations' Circle of Honour twice and was most recently awarded
and just use their hands to catch. And I'd fire it hard," he
                                                                    a bursary from the Foundation for Advancement of Aboriginal
says with a mischievous smile.
    In fact, while most 16-year-olds are heading out for
                                                                       But Jenna admits she wouldn't be where she is today if not
the evening to hang out with friends, it's not uncommon
                                                                    for the support of family and friends, especially her parents.
to find Jenna and her dad out in the backyard practising.
                                                                       "They were always supportive in whatever I wanted to do.
    "We put lights out in the garage and have a net inside
                                                                    Like in ball, this whole summer they basically came to every
there so we can play catch in the dark with the lights
                                                                    tournament ... With my school work, they'd help me whenever
on," says Rudy.
                                                                    I needed it. They were always there for me."
    And Jenna doesn't mind. In fact, she's more than
                                                                       And what does the future hold for this determined young
willing to do whatever it takes to make her a better
                                                                       "I want to be a math teacher or a cop. I'm not sure yet,"
    "I always want to be the best. Not to brag or anything,
                                                                    Jenna says, while admitting she is leaning towards teaching.
but I like to always try to do better than what I did
                                                                    Why teaching? Because it'll leave her summers open for
before. It makes me feel better about myself."
                                                                    baseball of course.

                                                         Winter Youth Edition                                                       3
    "I have a cat, a bird, 30 snakes,
    a dozen turtles and a half dozen

     How do you know veterinary student Alex
     Reid has found her calling? Well, you might
     observe how expertly and tenderly she
     handles the animals at the University of
     Saskatchewan's Western College of
     Veterinary Medicine.
          Not everyone can build an easy rapport with a                  The CBC caught wind of her animal obsession and did a
    Swainson's Hawk.                                                  five-minute television documentary that was aired
        Better yet, invite yourself over to her place for a cup of    nationally. The Reids were flattered by the attention, but
    tea. But watch where you step when you get there.                 when the camera crew left they were still faced with the
        "Yes, I have pets," she says with a smile.                    pressures of running a household teeming with beasts.
        "I have a cat, a bird, 30 snakes, a dozen turtles and a          "It's always nice when your kids are interested in
    half dozen lizards."                                              something, but it was just so many," laughs Melanie. "The
        To call Alex Reid an animal lover is to engage in a bit of    animals weren't always compatible."
    an understatement. The Muskeg Lake First Nation member               Yes, it could be a bit frenetic around the Reids,
    loves animals like Céline Dion loves singing, like Wayne          particularly when the cat population was desperate to
    Gretzky loves hockey.                                             become acquainted with the gerbil, hamster and pet rat
        This is no casual interest we're talking about here, but an   residing in Alex's bedroom (The rat's name, by the way, was
    all-consuming passion. And that's the way it's been since         Basil. She made a great pet).
    the beginning.                                                       Eventually, Alex found an outlet for her passion working
        "I remember when she was in a stroller, she was more          as a volunteer at the Vancouver Aquarium, the Vancouver
    interested in the animals than the people," says her mother,      SPCA and the West Coast Society for the Protection and
    Melanie Reid.                                                     Conservation of Reptiles and Amphibians, where she
        "She knew the names of all the cats and dogs in the           served as vice-president.
    neighbourhoods. She's always been passionately                       "I like the diversity and the differences in behaviour, diet
    interested in animals. And it didn't matter what kind."           and just how different everything is (in the animal world),"
        Growing up in Vancouver, Alex was constantly looking          she says during a break between classes at the U of S. "I
    for ways to increase the size of her menagerie. In the            find that fascinating."
    process, she would occasionally butt heads with her                  But snakes? The slippery reptiles can make the toughest
    parents, who liked animals themselves, but weren't anxious        of us squeamish. Without hesitation, Alex says the snake is
    to start their own zoo.                                           her favourite animal.
        The youngster would not only spend hours observing               "I have no idea why. There's just something about them
    and playing with her creatures, she would also conduct            that really, really fascinates me. I love watching them. In
    research and compile information. She once prepared a 45-         most cultures and religions, they have a much nicer place
    page booklet on horses, complete with a detailed                  than they do in Christian religion and mythology."
    explanation of the animal's physiology and an exhaustive             Of course, no one was surprised when Alex decided to
    list of breeds.                                                   take a zoology degree at the University of British Columbia.

4                                                          Winter Youth Edition
      Her entry into vet school also seemed
preordained, given she had declared her intention of
becoming a veterinarian before she reached her teens.                         Tracy
   She doesn't regret her choice, although there was an
adjustment when she started vet school.
   "There's a lot of work, a lot of course work and a lot
of outside time. I'm kind of lazy, so it was a little bit of an
adjustment to having constant levels of work. But it's
interesting and you can clearly see this is a profession                 When Tracy
where there's a lot of opportunity."                                     Buffalo's
   Alex would like to pursue a career in veterinary                      clients confide
pathology, which involves monitoring and surveying                       their troubles,
diseases and conducting research. If an animal dies for
                                                                         the North
some unexplained reason, it is the veterinary pathologist
who tries to determine the cause of death. This may                      Battleford
involve a necropsy, or an animal autopsy, a procedure                    legal aid
Alex tackles with enthusiasm.                                            lawyer
   "I really like pus," she laughs.                                      understands
   "Besides, I much prefer working with corpses to                       what they're
expressing (emptying) the anal glands of little dogs. That               going
grosses me out."
   Alex spends her summers in Saskatoon, where she
works for the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health
Centre. Last year, she was a West Nile summer student                       The First Nations woman is a former high school
involved in the surveillance of the Corvid (Crow)                       dropout who overcame a misspent youth to build
population. She plans to do post-graduate work and                      successful careers, first in corrections and then in law.
hopes to eventually earn a doctorate.                                   She knows from experience that criminal activity is not
                                                                        simply a matter of bad people doing bad things.
   Although busy with school, Alex has had a chance to
                                                                            "There's poverty issues, housing issues, alcohol
get reacquainted with her extended First Nations family
                                                                        issues, family issues and a lack of education," says the
in the Saskatoon area. She is proud of her Aboriginal                   member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, formerly known
heritage, pointing out that her grandmother, Mary Reid                  as the Chippewas of Sarnia (Ontario).
(Greyeyes), was the first First Nations woman to join the                   "There's a whole bunch of difficult circumstances why
Canadian Army (she signed up with the Canadian                          they are here (in court). If I was facing the same
Women's Army Corps in 1942).                                            circumstances, I would be in the very same place."
   "The First Nations presence is more pronounced in                    Tracy, who graduated from the University of
Saskatchewan and more tactile to me. It's good to be                    Saskatchewan law school in 2004, has a term position in
close to my people. I go to Creeway gas station (owned                  the North Battleford legal-aid office, where she practices
by Muskeg Lake Cree Nation) and one of my relatives is                  criminal and family law.
behind the counter."                                                         She has come a long way after an uncertain
   Alex is especially thankful her First Nation has paid                beginning in life. Tracy says an identity crisis - she didn't
                                                                        live on her reserve until her late teens - and general
for her education.
                                                                        rebelliousness prompted her to run away from home
                                                                        several times and eventually to become a drop out in
                                                                        Grade 10.
                                                                             "My friends and I dropped out all around the same
                                                                        time," she recalls.
                                                                        After drifting for a few years, Tracy took a hairdresser
                                                                        course and worked as a stylist for a time. The novelty of
                                                                        that career wore off quickly, however, as Tracy became
              Seeds of Succes s                                         dissatisfied with the money she earned, the long hours on
          A partnership in profiling                                    her feet and working on Saturday. It was at this point she
          Aboriginal success stories                                    decided she had no choice but to complete her high
                                                                        school education, at age 25.
                                                                            "Then I really enjoyed it. I was really into it and I
                                                                        applied myself. I was surrounded by adults who were on
                                                                        the same path as myself."

                                                                                                                 Continued on Page 8

                                                           Winter Youth Edition                                                         5
          Riva Farrell-Racette has taken a break from her somewhat
          sedate and structured life as an elementary school teacher to
          pursue her dream of touring with a rock band.

                        It's a move that initially unnerved her parents, but they have
                        since come on board their daughter's high-volume musical
                        adventure. "I think at first they were pretty hesitant about it
                        just because I was working full time as a teacher," recalls the
                        26-year-old bass player for Sylvie, a Regina-based band.

                        "But I think once they saw there were real opportunities and it
                        wasn't just us throwing our lives away so we could go on
                        tour, they really did come around."

                        Much of the assurance comes from the fact that Riva
                        and three other members of Sylvie have taken a
                        calculated, level-headed approach in pursuing
                        their dream.

                        "We always have to have a
                        steady day job, a steady
                        income to come home
                        to when we're                                             "As
                        touring," she                                         soon
                        says.                                              as our
                                                                      folks saw that
                                                                   we were being
                                                               as realistic and
                                                           responsible as possible,
                                                       it was more of a comfort for
                                                    them." Sylvie's members also
                                                include Riva's husband,
                                            singer/guitarist Joel Passmore,
                                        guitarist Chris Notenboom and drummer
                                    Jeff Romanyk. Passmore, Racette, and
                                Notenboom have been playing together for six
                             years. The band has played with such notables as
                          Death From Above 1979, the Smugglers, Bif Naked,
                        Hot Hot Heat and the Constantines. In 2003, Sylvie's
                        drive and hard work paid off with a nomination at the
                        Western Canadian Music Awards.

6            Winter Youth Edition

    Their debute album, I Wish I Was Driving, was                    "Just seeing the way the kids grow up and the
nominated for outstanding independent album of the year          community dynamics. Out on a reserve, there are
– a category that included other artists, such as Corb           extended families – cousins, aunties and uncles – and I
Lund, the Be Good Tanya's and the Swollen Members.               think that really adds to the sense of community," she
    "Other bands would jump at the chance to go on tour          says. "It was a real privilege to work out there."
with some of the bands we had with us or to be on the label          Having a rocker for a teacher likely impressed many of
that we're on," she says. " You just can't pass on these         her students, but they generally didn't show it.
opportunities because the timing isn't right – you have to           "At Grade 5 or 6, they can only look too impressed by
go for it."                                                      it," she says, noting life on the reserve is different from life
    Members of the band share a common dream their               in the city. "It's this perfect mix of popular mainstream
music will someday turn into a full-time gig, but they realize   culture and the culture out of the reserve. It was a really
it's a long road to travel, which includes countless hours of    positive experience for me just seeing the way the kids
jamming, song writing and extensive travel. The band is          grow up."
currently on a cross-country tour promoting its latest               When Riva isn't playing in the band, she likes to pursue
release, Sylvie – An Electric Trace.                             her other passion – dressage horseback riding, otherwise
    "When you look at how big bands have to get in order         known as show riding. She has been riding since her early
to live solely off their music, it can be overwhelming," Riva    teens and has owned a horse since she was age 15.
says. "But I think you have to break it up into small pieces         "Between the horse and the band my spare time was
and just make it happen one piece at a time."                    pretty occupied," she says. "I think that was my parents'
    Her father, Calvin Racette, is the aboriginal education      plan to keep their eye on me and to make sure I was
co-ordinator for the Regina public schools and former            staying out of trouble."
executive director of Gabriel Dumont Institute. He was also          Riva says riding and the growing popularity of her band
vice-principal of Bert Fox High School in Fort Qu'Appelle.       are keeping her very busy and focussed.
    Her mother, Dr. Sherry Farrell-Racette, is a professor at        "It gets a little crazy and hectic, but I wouldn't have it any
the First Nations University of Canada who recently              other way – that's for sure," she says.
completed her PHD in Indian Art
History      and     earned       the"They are amazing parents and great role models,"
Outstanding Dissertation of the
Year from the University of Manitoba.
    "I'm pretty proud of her and I look up to her a lot," Riva
says of her mother.
    Three of Calvin and Sherry's four children, including
Riva, are graduates of the Saskatchewan Urban Native
Teachers Education Program and the fourth has a
chemistry degree.
    "They're both amazing parents and great role models,"
she says, adding they've provided her with a firm
grounding in both Métis and First Nation culture.
    Riva spent four years teaching students on
Muscowpetung First Nation – about an hour north of
Regina – where she became even more grounded in the
Aboriginal community.

                                                       Winter Youth Edition                                                           7
Continued from Page 5

                                                                      While working at RPC, Tracy decided on a lark to write
                                                                   the law school admission test (LSAT).
                                                                      "When I got accepted into law school, I was eager to
                                                                   pursue it. I thought it was an opportunity I had to take, even
                                                                   though I had a job."
                                                                      In 2000, Tracy enrolled in the University of
                                                                   Saskatchewan's Native Law Program, which offers
                                                                   preparatory classes to Aboriginal students before they enter
                                                                   law school.
                                                                      "I don't know whether I liked law school itself," Tracy says
                                                                   when asked about her experience.
                                                                      "It was very challenging, very intense, and a lot of work.
                                                                   It was the most challenging experience of my life. You have
                                                                   to be focussed and you have to want it."
                                                                      She survived the gruelling experience with the help of
                                                                   eight other Aboriginal students, all of whom were coping
                                                                   with the same academic misery. Working for a living has
                                                                   come as a relief.
                                                                      "The real world is nothing like law school. The real world
                                                                   is a lot better. A lot of the stuff they teach in law school is not
                                                                   practical. It's an ordeal you have to go through. That can be
                                                                   said for a lot of professions. It's like an initiation."
                                                                      Tracy articled in the Yorkton legal aid office. She says
                                                                   defending people who can't afford their own lawyer is
                                                                   gratifying and a better professional fit for her.
                                                                      "We focus on criminal and family law. This gives me the
                                                                   opportunity to really focus on two areas, which is a lot easier
                                                                   than learning about numerous areas of law, something you
                                                                   have to do in private practice. That, to me, would be
                                                                      Legal aid has also given her an opportunity to work with
                                                                   Aboriginal people, a disproportionate number of whom are
                                            Tracy Buffalo          involved in the criminal justice system.
                                                                      "Unfortunately, a lot of Aboriginal people are our clients.
   Her return to school coincided with an exploration of her       I'm just trying to help people through their situations. It's
Aboriginal cultural heritage.                                      kind of overwhelming and sad. You try and help them as
   "I remember I would go out to ceremonies and dances             best you can to improve their situation. And not only their
with my sister. I think it certainly put me more at peace about    legal situation. I also try and provide support. I try to explain
who I am. It certainly settled me down."                           to them that they have to change their lifestyle to improve
   Upon graduation, Tracy enrolled in a general arts course        their situation. A lot of them want a better life. But a lot of
at Carleton University in Ottawa. Like most people, she was        time they may not know their options."
uncertain attending classes the first day of university.              While still wet behind the ears as a lawyer, Tracy has
   "That was scary. I didn't know if I could do it. The first      been on the job long enough to form opinions on how to
year was quite challenging. But I really applied myself. I was     make things better.
pretty motivated. I saw this as an opportunity to really              For instance, she would like to see more cases involving
change my life. I was getting funded (by her First Nation) at      Aboriginals diverted away from the courtroom’s adversarial
this point. I didn't want to throw that away."                     atmosphere to traditional restorative justice processes. As
   Tracy went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts (Honours)              well, she would like to see a larger compliment of Aboriginal
degree with a speciality in criminal justice, an impressive        lawyers working in the courts, particularly in prosecutions.
achievement when you consider she had a baby while                    And there is an important thing Tracy has learned about
attending Carleton (her family was very supportive).               herself.
   A career as a Correctional Services of Canada programs             "I'm not sure where my future is going to take me. But
officer followed, including a stint at Saskatoon's Regional        wherever I go, whatever I do, I want to work with First
Psychiatric Centre (RPC), a facility which provides acute          Nations people and assist them in whatever capacity is
psychiatric care for both male and female offenders.               required."

8                                                       Winter Youth Edition
                       Doubters                         didn’t know him
                            very well
        niversity of Saskatchewan medical
        student Alika Lafontaine nearly fainted                    child in a family of five children."If you treat everything as an
                                                                   obstacle, you're just going to get depressed. I look upon it
        the first time he witnessed a serious                      as a huge blessing because it gives me greater context.
 operation. There was a lot of blood, and as the                   And it's a great story to share. I was labelled as slow and
 young Métis man gingerly lowered himself into a                   now I'm in med school at 23. It sounds incredible from other
 chair offered by a nurse, there must have been a                  people's perspective. But there are a lot of stories like this
 few people in the room who figured the kid would                  that just don't get told."
                                                                      Alika's maturity and his "look on the bright side"
 never make it.
                                                                   philosophy can be explained in part by his upbringing.
                                                                   Indeed, his parents come up in the conversation again and
                                                                   again, an indication of just how important they are to him.
                                                                      Christopher, the executive director of the province's
                                                                   Aboriginal Courtworker Program, grew up in the Lestock
                                                                   area. He is Métis with Cree, Saulteaux, Irish and French
                                                                   blood flowing through his veins.
                                                                      Alika's mother, Manusiu, is from Tonga, an archipelago in
                                                                   the South Pacific.
                                                                      She moved to the United States with her family at an
                                                                   early age. The couple met when Manusiu was on a trip to
                                                                      Asked about Alika's elementary school experience,
                                                                   Christopher says he and his wife simply refused to accept
                                                                   the school's assessment of their son's abilities (they were
                                                                   told Alika would be lucky to graduate from high school and
                                                                   may never lead an independent life).
                                                                      The Lafontaines pulled their boy out of school and went
                                                                   about finding out why he was having difficulty learning. After
                                                                   consulting with experts here and in the U.S, they discovered
                                                                   his hearing had been impaired by ear infections. They
                                                                   worked with him and he made immediate progress. When
                                                                   Alika began home schooling, he was two grades behind.
   The doubters didn't know him very well. "He is a very,          After a year, he was three grades ahead.
very determined guy," says Christopher Lafontaine, Alika's            "The school was into behavioural modification," says
father. "My wife calls him our stubborn one."                      Christopher.
   Alika is now finishing up his fourth year of medical school        "But when you have an ear infection problem, you can do
and plans on specializing in anaesthesiology, which will           behavioural modification until the cows come home and it
entail another five years of study.                                won't change a thing."
   It's really no surprise the affable 23-year-old is forging         The Lafontaines response to the issue reflects their
ahead with his career after the queasy start. After all, this is   conviction that parents have to take seriously their duty to
a guy who earned his high school diploma at 15 and an              guide and teach their children. For them, the fundamentals
undergraduate degree at 19, despite the fact he was                of parenting also include teaching about the importance of
labelled as slow by the school system when he was in               work and the necessity of giving back to the community, in
Grade 4.                                                           addition to fostering a sense of togetherness for family
   Discussing his life over a hot chocolate at a Saskatoon         members.
coffee shop, Alika betrays no bitterness about being                  The latter was on public display a few years back when
designated as "developmentally delayed" in elementary              the Lafontaine children performed in a group called 5th
school.                                                            Generation. The kids sang and danced in a variety of styles,
   "My parents have taught me that you should treat every          everything from rhythm and blues to traditional Aboriginal.
challenge in life as a learning opportunity," says the middle                                                   Continued on Page 11

                                                         Winter Youth Edition                                                          9
     Cory               Mathews
                                                                    A lesson in
                                                                                            respect and pride
     For 28-year-old Métis teacher Corey Matthews, his first couple hours teaching at a north-central
     high school in Regina provided him with the ice-breaker he needed to overcome his nerves.
         One of his fledgling students warmly greeted him with an                 And Matthews knows first-hand just how hard it can be to
     exuberant "F-off."                                                       change, since he grew up in poverty in the same neighbourhood
         "That was my first day teaching and the first thing a student as many of his students and fell victim to many of the same
     ever said to me and I thought, well, I belong now. That was my pressures before turning his life around. He's now committed to
     initiation," laughs Matthews, who continues to teach at Scott helping his students succeed, even if that means using some
     Collegiate.                                                              unorthodox teaching methods.
         But it didn't take long for Mr. Matthews to earn the respect of          "I've had to literally be in their bedroom and drag them out of
     his students - students who often overcome incredible obstacles bed … if that's what I got to do then that's what I've got to do …
     just to get an education.                                                I pick up four kids in the morning. I don't mind it though. It's on
         "We have kids 16 or 17 raising themselves, looking out for my way to school."
     themselves, and they are survivors in a lot of senses," he says.             Matthews believes part of the problem contributing to high
         "I respect these kids a lot more because they are survivors.         drop-out rates among Aboriginal people, specifically men, is due
     They reaffirm why I do what I do."                                       to confusion about what it means to be Aboriginal today. "Where
         And no one knows more than Matthews what an up-hill battle is our modern-day warrior? What does it mean to be a modern-
     getting an education can be.                                             day warrior? That was the men's role. They don't have a role in
                                                                                today's society," he says. "Our young boys have no manhood
         Prior to teaching, Matthews worked as a manual
                                                                                        training." So Matthews is using sports to teach his
     labourer and coached basketball in his spare time
                                                                                            students about responsibility.
     before deciding to upgrade his education and get                      "I                     Shortly after he began teaching at Scott,
     his physical education degree. But shortly after
     entering university, he got a rude awakening
                                                                   respect these                Matthews revived the school's long-defunct
     when the English class he was in was asked to               kids a lot more                basketball team.
     write a paper interpreting a poem. When the                                                   "The hardest thing I've faced in starting this
                                                                because they are team was convincing the kids that they could be a
     teacher entered, he said that most of the class
     got it - all except one student.                                survivors"               team. It wasn't convincing the other schools; it
          "I'll never forget that. I was so embarrassed. I                                  wasn't convincing for the money; it was convincing
     mean, nobody knew, but I didn't feel like I belonged                               the kids themselves."
     anyway. And here I was trying to be really creative, really trying,          In 2004-2005, the Scott Blues not only convinced
     and it was right on paper, 'This may not be the place for you,'" themselves, but an entire city by winning the junior city
     he says reflectively.                                                    championship. "What we did was go from a nice story
         And indeed, Matthews did end up leaving university. But he that we were back in the league to proving that not only
     didn't give up on his dream of becoming a teacher. Instead, he do we belong in this league, but we can be successful,"
     enrolled in the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Matthews says as he recalls the more than 600 fans that were
     Program (SUNTEP) and used his earlier university experience there cheering on the Blues.
     as an example of the kind of teacher he didn't want to become.               He says the students won more than a game that day - they
          "It's funny who inspires you in life, isn't it? When I graduated    won back their pride. “To be identified with Scott now is a positive thing,
     from SUNTEP there was a bunch of people I wanted to thank, and that's what these boys have done."
     but there was also a whole other group I wanted to thank …                   Matthews, along with the Scott Fine Arts Program and
     those negative people that you just can't wait to prove wrong."          McKenzie         Art    Gallery's      artist-in-residence,        Gabriel
         Matthews graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Education              Yahyahkeekoot, are set to begin filming a documentary
     and began his career with Scott Collegiate shortly after that. He that chronicles the lives of the Scott basketball team and
     teaches the re-entry group - kids who have been in gangs, in the struggles these students face.
     trouble with the law and faced substance abuse.                               "The ultimate goal is to take an honest look at ourselves. To
         On the wall of his classroom is a poster of Ghandi with a quote that tell the honest story," says Matthews. "It's time to stop looking
     captures what Mr. Matthews wants his students to remember: "You outside of our culture. We need to make the change … Moms
     must be the change you wish to see in the world."                          need to be moms, dads need to be dads and kids need to go
                                                                                to school."
10                                                                  Winter Youth Edition
                                                                Continued from Page 08

       J     ennifer
                                                                   They performed at
                                                                conferences, schools
                                                                and workshops, where
                                                                they shared their

             Brass                                              Christian faith along with
                                                                the music (the
                                                                Lafontaines are devout
 When civil servant Jennifer Brass faces
                                                                    "But it wasn't as if
 challenges at work, she can always take                        we were preaching
 solace from one fact: no matter how bad it                     about Christ," says
 gets, at least she's not in diver boot camp.                   Alika, a National
                                                                Aboriginal Achievement
                                                                Award winner and the
   A stint as a navy diver provides valuable perspective        recipient of several high-
for Jennifer while she attends to her duties as executive       profile scholarships.
assistant and policy advisor to Nora Sanders, the deputy
minister of Saskatchewan's Department of First Nations               "It was more speaking about the dangers of drug
and Metis Relations.                                            and alcohol abuse and about relationships. We had a lot
                                                                of talks with kids about how a girl should be treated. We
                                                                talked about the importance of education."
  Her training during the five years she spent in
Canada's naval reserves was rigorous to say the least.
                                                                    Alika describes himself as the book worm in the
  How rigorous? Try a 10-mile run, a five-mile swim,            family. Science has always interested him, and he
hundreds of push ups and sit ups, and hours in the water        expressed a desire to become a doctor at an early age.
– all in a day. Or what about swimming in circles at
midnight, punishment for a mistake someone had made                There were times when his resolve was tested - he
on a night dive?                                                found university a challenge at age 16 (who wouldn't?),
                                                                but his parents helped him keep his eye on the prize.
       "Keep on going. Keep on
                                                                   "I remember saying ‘I don't want to be a scientist, I
            persevering."                                       want to be a journalist’ (early in university). My mom
                                                                said ‘you made a commitment to get your BSC
   That's boot camp, diver style. Somehow the soft-             (Bachelor of Science degree) and you made a
spoken First Nations woman survived, and she can                commitment to get into medical school’. Mom was firm
proudly wear the badge that tells the world she's a             and always right," he says with a laugh.
qualified inspection diver, one of the few
women, and likely the only Aboriginal,                              Alika is enjoying medical school more than ever,
to earn the designation in Canada.                              now that he is in a position to apply the theory he has
(Inspection divers carry out a                                  learned over the past three years.
variety of tasks, including
inspection     of    ship     hulls,                                His training will become more intense later this year
underwater      demolition      and                             as he takes on new responsibilities working as a
underwater searches.)                                           medical resident. But even while immersed in his
                                                                studies and a busy personal life - in 2007, he will marry
   "When you have completed the                                 Thu Uyen Huynh, a dental student - Alika says he won't
course, you know that you have                                  forget where he came from.
completed something quite
incredible," Jennifer, 36,                                          He is a member of a committee working with Health
says during an interview                                        Canada to encourage Aboriginal medical students to
in her downtown Regina                                          take up specialities. "Being involved with your people is
office.                                                         very important, especially with the Aboriginal community.
                                                                They are really family. There is a teaching that you give
                                                                back to the community that gave you life."
 Continued on Page 12

                                               Jennifer Brass

                                                    Winter Youth Edition                                                   11
   "When you are put under that much stress, you realize             Jennifer went on to become a senior policy analyst and
what you can overcome and achieve. You understand your            was named to her current position on Oct. 1, 2004.
limits are a lot further than you thought."                          As executive assistant and policy advisor to Sanders,
   The navy training was obviously an important experience        she acts as the department's main liaison between staff and
for Jennifer, the mother of a six-year-old boy and an avid        the deputy minister, and between the department and the
jogger who plans to run a half marathon this year.                minister's office.
   She joined the reserves after graduating from Regina's            She also serves as the department's "legislative officer",
Luther College. At the time, like most teenagers entering         which means she oversees the preparation of important
adulthood, she wondered which direction to take in life. Her      documents going to the provincial cabinet, such as cabinet
uncertainty was deepened by the angst she experienced as          decision items.
a child of the infamous "60s scoop", the program that saw            From time to time, the provincial government has had
Aboriginal children apprehended by the government and             strained relations with First Nations, who view their
adopted by non-Aboriginal families.                               relationship with the federal government as paramount.
   While Jennifer now has a good relationship with some              However, Jennifer says the province is becoming more
members of her birth family, as a youth she felt conflicted by    sensitive to the needs of Aboriginals.
her status as a First Nations person living in a                     "The provincial government is a great place to work for
predominately white world.                                        Aboriginal people. Our department is made up of a lot of
   "I think after high school I had to stop and think about       First Nations and Metis people. And they are helping to
things. I had to think about why I had to deal with racism        ensure programs and policies that are developed include
and think about what's wrong with being an Indian. And it         Aboriginal people in a way that will be good for them. I think
was at that point I thought there’s nothing wrong with being      government is really working to consider Aboriginal people
an Indian. There's nothing wrong with me.”                        when they are making policy decisions."
   Another watershed moment in her life came when she                Outside of government, Jennifer says Saskatchewan is
enrolled in the Indian Arts program at the Saskatchewan           in a good position to prepare Aboriginal people for the
Indian Federated College, now the First Nations University        future, with the First Nations University of Canada, the
of Canada. Jennifer is an accomplished visual artist whose        Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology and the
work often examines what First Nations people had to              Gabriel Dumont Institute all offering excellent programming.
overcome dealing with colonialism.                                   "It's a matter of ensuring that youth continue their
   At the college, under the guidance of professors such as       education. That's my best advice to youth. Do what you can
the late Bob Boyer and former faculty member Sheila Orr,          to get education or training, because that's the way into
Jennifer became acquainted with traditional Aboriginal art        employment and a successful future."
and gained a deeper appreciation of her people and her               She also urges young people to test their limits, just as
culture.                                                          she did years ago in the naval reserve.
   "It was like a small family. There was a very close               "Keep on going. Keep on persevering. You can
relationship with the professors, people like Bob Boyer,          overcome challenges and come out at the end. When you
Sheila Orr and other students. Those are the people I spent       do, you've achieved something that you can be proud of."
a lot of time with, not only in the classroom, but also at
traditional feasts and pow wows. It was the best place for
me. It changed my life. I learned more about who I was and
how I fit in."
   Jennifer might have pursued a career in the arts, if it
weren't for summer jobs with the provincial government that
led to a permanent position with the Saskatchewan Indian
and Metis Affairs Secretariat, the agency which handled
Aboriginal affairs for the province until the creation of a
stand-alone department.
   In 1993, she was hired by the secretariat to serve as the
provincial representative for the International Year of the
World's Indigenous Peoples, a job which entailed setting up
projects and programs.
   After Jennifer graduated with her Indian Arts degree in
1996, the secretariat hired her on a permanent basis to
work in the area of treaty land entitlement. The province is
a party to the 1992 Treaty Land Entitlement Framework
Agreement that provided $450 million to 25 First Nations to
compensate them for land they didn't receive when they
signed treaty. The money was paid out over 12 years.

12                                                     Winter Youth Edition

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