Learning about the history of Indigenous peoples from a Blackfoot professor was an eye-opening experience for Cali Weasel Fat. Growing up on a reserve as a member of the Blood Tribe, Cali says it wasn’t until her first Indigenous studies course at Mount Royal University in Calgary that she understood why things are the way that they are.
“As First Nations people, our life experiences have always been isolated and difficult to understand. The outcome of Indian Residential Schools manifested a complex trauma that continues to cycle and leaves us in a constant state of collective loss and grieving. My professor’s perspective shifted my understanding of our experiences and created a new way of thinking for me,” she says.
“What I have learned and gained has evolved my approach to education, opened my eyes to how resilient we are, and allowed me to hold space for healing.”
For Cali – a two-time recipient of TC Energy’s Indigenous Legacy scholarship in 2020 and 2021 – education has had an incredibly positive impact on her life. Cali now studies at the University of Lethbridge where she majors in environmental science and minors in Aboriginal health and Indigenous governance. The scholarships have allowed her to concentrate on her schooling without the burden of financial stress.
“I intend to give back to my community through my education in the sciences and by incorporating Indigenous knowledge and practices, so we can be more sustainable for our planet,” Cali says.
Advocating for further education and opportunities for youth has become another way for Cali to give back to her community.
“In the long run I want to inspire more youth to further their education because it has had such a positive impact on my life and without it, I wouldn’t have gone this far in life,” she says.
Last year, she joined the Community Futures Treaty 7 (CFT7) student committee as part of a two-year commitment, where she can support other students in her community, find mentors and build a strong network. CFT7 is a non-profit organization focused on economic development, training and employment with Treaty 7 First Nations, which TC Energy has partnered with for more than a decade to support a variety of initiatives – including the student committee.
Cali’s role on the committee is to find ways to reach out to Indigenous youth to help give them a voice and connect them with more educational and career opportunities. In particular, the committee – which includes seven other students, CFT7 staff and elders – work together to recruit students for summer work placements in diverse organizations.
This year, the committee recruited 140 students through networking and social media platforms to attend the employment symposium – which was almost double the number of students recruited the previous year.
“It was rewarding to know my peers were able to further themselves,” says Cali. “The youth have so much to say. It really starts with education, applying yourself and making space for yourself in this world so we can govern ourselves one day.”
In their first year, the student committee’s engagement efforts within their community were so successful that they were asked to present this past spring to the Prime Minister’s Youth Secretariat on how to better engage with First Nations youth.
“The youth are our future, and there is much progress that needs to be done so our youth can succeed. What companies and governments can do is provide more culturally appropriate programs to support and inspire the youth,” Cali says.
“There is a lot of opportunity for companies and governments to create true and meaningful partnerships. By doing that, we’re able to move forward in a relationship formed from the truth which will further economic reconciliation.”
In 2020, more than $8.8 million was invested in over 600 Indigenous partners and students across North America through the TC Energy Scholarship and community legacy programs.
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