In the Deepest, Darkest Parts of Our Hearts

You must admit you’ve had evil little thoughts from time to time. We’ve all had them, because we’ve all wished ill on another. Even the most holy-roller has the devil to curse.
Don’t feel bad if you wished your neighbor’s yappy mutt got laryngitis and had to go to a peaceful farm in the country.
In the minds of most people, that’s where it ends. For others, they may continue to obsess about that dumb beast until they too become dumb beasts.
Rage can be triggered from something as simple as a drive in the car.
Who among us hasn’t wondered about the mentality of the person in the passing lane who is matching speed with another mental case in the slow lane? Don’t they have mirrors to see the ever growing line-up of cars behind them?
Is the driver purposely playing traffic cop, or, are they just inconsiderate Canadians?
Maybe they’re unaware they are the ones breaking the law. I’m sure they too have seen those signs along the road reading: “SLOWER DRIVERS KEEP RIGHT or KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS.”
Ah, that felt good to express myself. I sincerely hope I’m doing the same for my readers and all people in the rear view mirror.
But this is where we, as a civil society, should draw the line. To cross the line between sanity and road rage is as easy as choosing between the force of good and the dark side.
Rage is just one of the multitudes of triggers that can cause someone to get violent or have an emotional meltdown that makes Chernobyl look like dripping wax.
If rages are red and melancholy is blue, that leaves jealousy, the green-eyed monster, and you.
Let’s imagine you yearn for an unattainable heart and a golden future. Then some loser, whom you went to school with, buys a winning lottery ticket at the same place where you just bought a loser ticket. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the lucky schmuck then marries your dream and goes on to have three very ugly children.
I wonder if you could then look me in the eye and tell me that you never had any nasty little day-dreams about your old schoolmate? If you could honestly do that, then I think you deserve a medal, or at the very least a metal plate for your head.
To wish upon a star is a wonderful childhood memory, but to seek out vengeance is a childish act. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t wish the villain their comeuppance; just don’t take the yappy mutt to a peaceful farm in the country.
I do see a bright future for humanities’ dark thoughts. Man comes from a violent history marred by wars and hatred. I’m sure there was a time if some chariot driver cut you off in traffic it was punishable by beheading.
If you are seeing red, green or feeling blue, don’t seek the blackness of revenge, seek help instead. Talk to a buddy, or, do what I do: draw pictures of grumpy people and poke holes in it.
For those who can’t draw, just imagine you’re the loser from high school and you just won $50 million dollars and go on to have three beautiful children.
Email Bernie Bates at:

Alberta Aboriginal Construction Career Centre at NorQuest College Providing Opportunity for Determined, Goal-Oriented Women

Depending on how one looks at it, patience is either a rewarding virtue or the procrastinator’s guide to failure. Many have excelled thanks to deliberate thought. However, there has been equal success gained by those who don’t just wait around for good things to happen.

Take Regan Gamble, for example. Contrary to her surname, the 40-year-old was leaving nothing to chance when she arrived in Edmonton looking for career options in the fall of 2015. That’s why one of the first places she visited was the Alberta Aboriginal Construction Career Centre (AACCC) at NorQuest College. “I knew that there were organizations out there that could help me,” says Gamble, a member of the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation in Saskatchewan. “I just needed to get out there and find them. Once I heard about the Alberta Aboriginal Construction Career Centre, I was completely drawn to it.”

Another good part to this story is Gamble is now working full-time as an engagement advisor with Edmonton’s Women Building Futures (WBF). WBF is one of this province’s leading educational institutions preparing women for work in trade industries like electrician, carpenter, Class I Driver, and other heavy equipment operators. WBF has a record of career success for women within these industries at a consistent employment rate of 90 per cent.
But before that happened, Gamble needed help in her new city. Initially, she thought of going into the safety side of the construction industry so she used Alberta Aboriginal Construction Career Centre (AACCC), services to help earn safety tickets through the Alberta Construction Safety Association.

Through it all she was given emotional support by AACCC staff as a newcomer to Edmonton, provided with help to find information for things like funding, was given assistance with writing resumes and cover letters, and offered a treasure trove of contacts of employers and other helpful services. “I got everything I needed. The centre completely catered to my needs,” said Gamble. Which brings us back to the now. Feeling confident thanks to the AACCC’s support, and using one of her many provided contacts, she reached out to WBF to see if there was any way she could help. In the end, following an extensive interview, a way was discovered.

Seeing her tenacity and determination, WBF recognized Gamble would be a valuable asset when it came to attracting other Indigenous women to the trades. So today, because she reached out and asked for help, because she utilized the training and services the AACCC provides, and because she promoted her existing and new talents with confidence, Gamble has more than a job – she has a career.

Angry Inuk: Looking into Impacts of Seal Hunt Bans

In 1983, after animal activists groups like Green Peace were able to convince the European Union to ban products made from whitecoat harp seal pups, everything changed for the worst for Inuit people in the Canadian arctic. If that wasn’t enough, yet another ban in 2009 by the European Union caused even more hardship for the Inuit people who rely on their seal hunt to sustain their livelihood, their culture and economy.

“Angry Inuk,” a film by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, enlightens viewers by providing background on the reality behind the anti-seal hunt demonstrations and those using whitecoat harp seal pups as their slogan. By portraying the helpless baby white seal as their poster darling, animal activists have been able to, time and again, convince world governments and the public that hunting seals is “evil and cruel” and unnecessary.

Arnaquq-Baril is narrator for the compelling documentary, which was filmed over a seven-year period beginning in the spring of 2008. The film shows the pristine landscape of the Nunavut Territory in the Canadian Arctic and looks into the Inuit people and their way of life. It explains how the seal hunt is so much a fundamental part of Inuit culture.

In one scene, Aaju Peter, a seal skin designer and a lawyer for Inuit Seal Hunting Rights, is admiring a picture of two children with their faces smeared with seal blood while enjoying eating seal. Peter explains, “To other people, this probably looks scary. But to us, this is cute.”

After the 1983 seal hunt ban was imposed, most Inuit people had no choice but to move away from their traditional grounds and into town because the price of seal skin completely crashed. Most Inuit had to find odd jobs creating carvings and perform whatever other jobs they could find. But the Inuit still had to hunt seal for food.

Arnaquq-Baril said the 1983 ban was their “Great Depression” as it was a life altering event for the Inuit. Within a year of the ban the suicide rate spiked even higher and has risen to rank among the highest globally ever since.

“Suicide was once a rare thing in the Inuit community. As a result of traumas from residential school abuse, forestry relocation, and other destructive government policies, Inuit people began taking their lives at alarming rates,” narrates Arnaquq-Baril in “Angry Inuk.” “In 1983 it was yet another layer of stress on our communities causing widespread hunger and hardships.”

In 2009, the filmmaker followed a group of Inuit representative who traveled to the European Union Parliament to voice their opinion on banning the seal hunt. The viewer will see their efforts were futile and did not change world leaders’ minds on the vote.

“Angry Inuk” is a film worth watching and may even change your thoughts on the Seal Hunt Ban lobbied for by Green Peace – an organization responsible for successfully implanting the erroneous image of the “evil and killing of the baby white seal” in the minds of those not educated to the facts of Inuit life.

UBC Faculty of Medicine Aboriginal Admissions Program Celebrating 15 Successful Years

UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Aboriginal Admissions Program 2017 graduates. Alex Sheppard, back row center, James Andrews, right of center back row. Photo credit: Kevin Ward

The University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine Aboriginal Admissions program is on track to graduate over 100 med students by 2020 says, James Andrews, University of British Columbia (UBC), Aboriginal Student Initiatives Coordinator. “This year is our 15 year anniversary for the program, and as of May 2017, with seven new med students graduating, we have reached 71 Aboriginal graduates,” Andrews said.

Interest in the program has grown since it began in 2002, the year they received seven applicants, of which two were admitted. Designed to increase the number of Aboriginal medical students and physicians in British Columbia, the program now averages 20 to 25 applicants per year.

Academic success of Aboriginal students is contingent upon early educational engagement. Programs such as the pre-admissions workshop (conducted by the Division of Aboriginal People’s Health) introduce science and medical career role-models to young Aboriginal students where academic success is fostered by early engagement and recruitment. Aboriginal MD students also serve as mentors to applicants in the pre-admissions stage and forge strong relationships and a system of peer support.

Andrews explained many individuals praise the Aboriginal medical program and hope it continues to thrive. “My response is, we still have decades to go and we need at least 300 Aboriginal physicians in B.C. in order to make an impact on our Aboriginal people’s health; we aren’t even a quarter of the way there yet. In Canada we need 3,000 Aboriginal physicians, but the best guestimate is 300 and our work isn’t close to being done,” said Andrews.

About 60 per cent of the program’s Aboriginal graduates have trained and are training to become family doctors, while the remaining graduates are in surgical specialties and other specialties like psychiatry. Aboriginal med graduates are choosing to practice medicine in the community, such as one graduate who is now a family doctor with a practice in Vancouver’s Lumar Housing complex.

As graduates help meet the need of more family doctors in B.C. and throughout Canada, the program continues to improve its curriculum in Aboriginal health. Alex Sheppard, Cree and Metis from Alberta, and one of the seven graduates this year, said she would definitely recommend the UBC Aboriginal Medical program to Aboriginal students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

“I think they are a leader in Canada for Aboriginal medical education with a separate Aboriginal admissions process and support for Aboriginal students during our four years of training,” Sheppard said. “All of the Aboriginal medical students also had the opportunity to take part in an Aboriginal orientation week before first year started, where we all got to know each other and take part in a number of cultural activities. We also had yearly Aboriginal retreats that allowed us to stay connected to one another and to our heritage.”

Sheppard plans to move to Newfoundland for two years for a residency in family medicine. She is in a program called NunaFam, which involves spending six months of second year training in Iqaluit. “I’m really looking forward to being immersed in rural generalist medicine and to further cultivate my interest in Aboriginal Health,” said Sheppard.

Sheppard said there are a number of health disparities facing Aboriginal communities across Canada today and she thinks, in general, there is a lot of room for improvement in how they deliver healthcare to the unique Aboriginal populations. “As a general practitioner, I hope to be able to work in these communities and have some opportunity to make changes on a systemic level,” said Sheppard.

During her time in medicine, Sheppard said she has been lucky enough to meet amazing Aboriginal residents and doctors who’ve taught her a great deal and inspire her every day. “I know what I have learned from them will inform my practice for many years to come,” said Sheppard.

I asked the UBC Aboriginal Student Initiatives Coordinator what students interested in gaining admittance into the Aboriginal Medical Program need to do to qualify. “Because the Undergraduate MD program is a professional degree, we require students to excel in their academic and non-academic endeavors,” Andrews said. “Academically, they should have strong marks, grades, and a relatively good MCAT score (Medical College Admissions Test). Non-academically, students should have demonstrated they can work with people through their volunteer and or work experiences.”

Border Tribal Council and SIGA Break Ground on Lloydminster Casino Development

Lloydminster Casino Rendering Photo Courtesy of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority

Lloydminster, SK –

The Border Tribal Council and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) held a sod turning ceremony today to mark the official groundbreaking for the Lloydminster casino development – this will be SIGA’s seventh entertainment destination in Saskatchewan.
Chiefs Wallace Fox and Wayne Semaganis, from Onion Lake Cree Nation and Little Pine First Nation, respectively, on behalf of the Border Tribal Council revealed plans for the Eagle Park West development and reaffirmed their eagerness to expedite construction of the new casino.
Chief Reginald Bellerose, Board Chair for the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, speaks to the key partnerships involved.

“On behalf of SIGA, we’re excited to officially be in the ground and to continue working with the Border Tribal Council to make this development a reality. This casino will not only benefit the community of Lloydminster but all First Nations of Saskatchewan, and is only possible through the positive partnerships between the FSIN, Border Tribal Council, Little Pine First Nation and the City of Lloydminster.”

The land for the development is owned by Little Pine First Nation, which is responsible for site development. The casino property will be leased to SIGA by the Border Tribal Council, the facility landlord, which will be responsible, alongside SIGA, for the facility development. SIGA will operate the casino and follow the same profit distribution model as its other six casinos as outlined in the Gaming Framework Agreement, with profits being administered by the Province of Saskatchewan.

Breaking Ground on the Lloydminster Casino ProjectPhoto Courtesy of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority

50% is shared with the First Nations Trust which is distributed to Saskatchewan First Nation communities;
25% is shared with regional Community Development Corporations (CDCs) which are situated in the casino locations and benefit local initiatives;
25% is shared with the provincial government’s General Revenue Fund.

“The new casino will have significant benefits for Lloydminster – it will create local employment, provide funding for city services, non-profit and charitable organizations, and it will support local businesses through service agreements and by attracting tourism dollars to the community,” says Zane Hansen, President and CEO, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.

Participating in the sod turning ceremony were First Nation Elders, representatives from the FSIN, Border Tribal Council, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Little Pine First Nation, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, and from various levels of government.

SIGA continues to strengthen the lives of First Nation people through employment, economic growth and community relations. SIGA operates six other casinos in Saskatchewan in North Battleford, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Yorkton and on the White Bear First Nation near Carlyle. SIGA’s casinos offer a distinctive First Nations entertainment experience that reflects the traditional aspects of First Nations heritage and hospitality.

Just Announced Tanya Tagaq to perform at The Drum is Calling Festival this July

TANYA TAGAQ – photo by Katrin Braga

Playing to major festivals and packed houses all over the world you don’t want to miss

Experimental vocalist and artist Tanya Tagaq who will be headlining The Drum is Calling Festival on July 24 at Larwill Park. This award-winning Inuk throat singer released her latest album Retribution in 2016 and in 2014 won the Polaris Prize for best Canadian album for Animism.


The City of Vancouver’s Canada 150+ signature event The Drum is Calling is a nine-day, immersive festival of Indigenous and diverse arts and culture. Highlighting the festival will be stellar performances from iconic artists such as singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie who will be the opening headliner, PowWowStep creator DJ Shub, singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, country sensation Crystal Shawanda, northern Ontario rockers Midnight Shine, Juno Award winner William Prince, rising R&B star George Leach, genre-defying artist Kinnie Starr, literary giant Tomson Highway, and powerful spoken word poet Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long.

For those drum lovers, a must-see will be a spectacular night of Drums over Salish Sea in July 27. This intercultural drumming will ignite the thunderous power of dancers and drummers from around the world and is led by renowned percussionist and cultural collaborator Sal Ferraras.

Artistic Program

Saturday July 22:        Bitterly Divine, Murray Porter, Buffy Sainte-Marie
Sunday July 23:           William Prince, Crystal Shawanda, Tom Jackson
Monday July 24:          Amanda Rheaume, Susan Aglukark,Tanya Tagaq
Tuesday July 25:          Shamik Bilgi, Boom Booms with Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Midnight Shine
Wednesday July 26:   Dj Kookum
Thursday July 27:        The Jerry Cans, Drums over the Salish Sea
Friday July 28:            Donny Parenteau, Sierra Noble, Chantal Kreviazuk
Saturday July 29:        George Leach, Kinnie Starr, DJ Shub
Sunday July 30:           Leonard Sumner, Leela Gilday, Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long

Attendees can expect much more than just music; additional highlights will include hands-on workshops and live programming inside the Indigenous housing forms built by the Kanata Festival on Turtle Island. While Having Soup is a powerful installation in which over the amount of time it takes to consume a bowl of soup, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Vancouverites will engage in a “three-course” dialogue about charged issues during Canada 150+.


As part of the festival, the inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week will feature the super-stars and emerging artists of Indigenous fashion design and modelling. The show is the brainchild of former international model Joleen Mitton.

Other forms of art will include carving exhibitions, curated short films by the National Film Board, Theatre for Young people presented by Shaw Communications Inc., and From Oral to Written presented in partnership with the Vancouver Writers Fest.


Artistic Director Margo Kane and the curators have themed each day, so festival-goers will experience something new at every return visit. From honouring our Host Nations to Elders and Matriarch to Youth, Warriors, and Friends, the themes bring together cultural presentations such as theatre, play readings, carving and weaving workshops, literary and speaker series, and film screenings. The best of authentic Indigenous artisans, vendors and food will be on site to nourish your mind, body, and soul.

The Festival’s main venue Larwill Park will feature a festival zone with stages, food and craft vendors, exhibits and more. Activities and performances will also take place at adjacent streets and plazas, including other venues such as Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Playhouse Theatre.

Events are free however some indoor venues may require advance registration. For more information on these events and programming for Celebration 150+ please visit the website at

Siksika Nation Teen Impresses Top Alberta Hockey Coach

Mandi Running Rabbit (mom), Anson McMaster, and Trevor Running Rabbit (dad)


Anson McMaster from the Siksika Nation recently helped Team South win the Alberta Cup Bantam Hockey Championships in a tournament held for the Top 160 bantam hockey players in that province.
“The Alberta Cup Championships takes place a week before the hockey drafts and is a higher level than the Bantam AAA which involves the top 160 hockey players in Alberta,” said Jamie Steer, head coach for Team South.
“They are split into eight teams and this year Alberta South won the championship!”
Steer named McMaster the team’s assistant captain for the hockey tournament at the first try-outs. “It was fairly easy because Anson is one of the best. He skates really well both forward and backwards, and he works really hard,” Steer said. “He’s a quiet leader, a front-of-the-line player. One thing I noticed as the tournament progressed is he got better. I always tell my players if a team gets better every game, they’ll win the tournament.”
At the team’s awards banquet, the 14 year old, 6 feet 4 inch tall, 175 pound McMaster won Defensemen of the Year, Top Scorer, and Most Valuable Player, plus the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League chose him as Top Defensemen of the Year for the South Division.
I asked McMaster what he thought about winning the Alberta Cup with Team South, and his recent awards and recognition while playing for the Rocky Mountain Raiders.
“It was a pretty good experience playing with the best hockey players in the province, and winning wasn’t bad as well,” said McMaster.
During the Alberta Cup, McMaster was chosen Game Star for one of the games as Team South went on to defeat Team Northwest 5-1 in the championship game.
Among his most recent achievements, McMaster was just drafted 23rd overall in the WHL bantam draft by Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook. His parents, Mandi and Trevor Running Rabbit, are very proud of their son and instill education as a top priority.
“We are so proud and happy for our boy. He’s worked so hard through training five times a week and also keeping up his school average to 85%,” Mandi said. “We as parents have always told our kids that if they keep up with their education they can do anything they want, and for Anson that is to make it as far as he can in hockey, plus getting his schooling done along the way.”
McMaster appears to be listening to his parents as he told First Nations Drum he’s just finishing Grade 9 at the Crowther Memorial Junior High School in Strathmore, Alberta.
“Math is my favourite subject with an 85 percent average. I would like one day, maybe after hockey, possibly being a scientist.”
His favourite NHL player is Shea Webber, and if he had a choice to play for an NHL team it would definitely be his favourite team to cheer for, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
McMaster is on his way toward a bright future, and coach Steer thinks the same.
“So far he`s heading in the right direction. He’s 6 – 4, he needs to gain more body weight, needs to get stronger, and with his growth spurt he’ll continue working hard on his hockey skills. Anything is possible with this kid,” said coach Steer.

Canada 150+ Signature Events Unveiled

The events will showcase the vibrant living culture of our three Host Nations—the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh—as well as traditional and contemporary arts from the Urban Aboriginal and Métis people of Vancouver and beyond.

The nine-day Drum is Calling Festival set for July 22-30 in Larwill Park is one of three signature events planned for this year. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Festival Artistic Director Margo Kane today announced the unique Indigenous and diverse cultural programming for this festival.

Some festival headliners include: Buffy Sainte-Marie, PowWowStep creator DJ Shub, singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, country sensation Crystal Shawanda, Juno Award winner William Prince, rising R&B star George Leach, genre-defying artist Kinnie Star, literary giant Tomson Highway, and powerful spoken word poet and musician Shane Koyczan.

“Vancouver is proud to be a City of Reconciliation and commemorating our heritage this Canada 150+ year in partnership with our host First Nations, the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-waututh,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Vancouver’s ‘plus’ in our Canada 150+ celebrations recognizes the heritage of our land before 150 years, our journey to the present, and moving forward with mutual understanding and respect with our local First Nations and Urban Aboriginal community. I encourage all Vancouverites to experience the music, traditions, art and more of our Host Nations at one of our many events this year.”

During the program unveiling some of the speakers included Chief Wayne Sparrow from Musqueam Nation, Chief Ian Campbell from Squamish Nation and Chief Maureen Thomas from Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

Additional highlights during the Drum is Calling Festival will include hands-on workshops and live programming inside the Indigenous housing forms built by the Kanata installation.

Indigenous Fashion Week (July 26–29), is the brainchild of former international model Joleen Mitten and will feature the super-stars and emerging artists of Indigenous fashion design and modelling.

The first signature event of 2017 will be the opportunity to witness a landing of the Pulling Together Canoe Journey at the Gathering of Canoes on July 14.  Up to 30 canoes—with First Nations, Public Service Agencies and youth paddlers—will request permission to land on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

During the third signature event, tens of thousands of Vancouverites are also expected to participate in the second-ever Walk for Reconciliation on September 24. In partnership with Reconciliation Canada and as part of the legacy of the inspirational Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, O.B.C., the walk will remind Vancouverites of the healing and transformational power of ‘Namwayut — We Are All One’.

More details about The City of Vancouver’s Canada 150+ programming are available on the program’s website:

Danette Burden SIIT Carpentry Teacher

Danette Burden. Photo Courtesy of SIIT.

by Frank Larue

Danette Burden is a carpentry teacher at SIIT, her background showing a distinct penchant for carpentry. In her own words, she’s “… a red seal /Journeyman Carpenter. I pursued my career as a carpenter in 2006 when I had taken a pre-employment carpentry course in Outlook, Saskatchewan that was offered through SIAST. It offered the Level 1 and Level 2 technical training, and a 2-week work practicum. I worked with a couple well-known companies in the 4-years, and was able to get my ticket in 2011. Prior to my schooling with SIAST, I had a computer business diploma, and had most of my high school. I ended up working with SIIT IN 2014 when I had seen an ad for a women in trades instructor posted online. I have always wanted to do something to help make a difference within the indigenous community. I was able to see 11 women graduate a CWP course. A few of them are still working on the trade as a carpenter, and are pursuing their career as a carpenter.”

Burden was born and raised in Edmonton.

“I moved my young family of 4 boys to Saskatchewan in 2005,” she recounts. “We have made Saskatchewan our home. I am a carpenter instructor teaching apprenticeship courses. I have taught Level 1, Level 2, and at the moment I am teaching a Level 3 class. I have also taught a women in trades CWP course in Montréal Lake (2014), a CWP–RRAC program in Mistiwasis (2014), and a steel stud drywall course. I have been employed with SIIT on and off since 2014, where I taught courses. As of September 2016, I was hired as the apprenticeship instructor.”

Finding the right career is never easy, but carpentry had been a natural calling for Burden, and teaching was the perfect move.

“I love teaching and feel I have found my career. Being able to use my skills and knowledge to help others on the path of their careers is very rewarding as an instructor. I feel I am making a difference,” beams Burden. “To see the accomplishment on my students faces when they complete a project, completing a course, or passing a level is very rewarding. I know I have done what I could as an instructor.”

Not only is she happy with her career choice, Saskatchewan has been the right move.

“The post-secondary education for Indigenous students in Saskatchewan is amazing,” affirms Burden. “Being from a large city like Edmonton, and as an Indigenous women, I wish we had as much opportunity as there is here in Saskatchewan. My personal goal is to continue working with Indigenous people and helping better their lives, working towards building their future. By doing what I love doing, it continues to allow my own children to see the importance of helping others.”

Marci Lyon Makes Her Dream Come True

Marci Lyon. Photo courtesy of SIIT.

Marci Lyon teaches heavy equipment operation at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology. She has dealt with unusual circumstances in her life, but has always managed to triumph in situations that might have prevented someone with less survival instincts. She was born in northern Saskatchewan.

“My family on both my mother’s side and father’s side are all integrated in the construction industry, from drilling, mining, road building, cooking in camps, etc. It’s in my blood and desire to become involved one way or another,” asserts Lyon. “One day my mother had become ill. Her heart was troubling her, and she asked if I’d come to cook in the camp with her up near Sandy Bay. After 18 hours a day working weeks alongside her, cooking and preparing meals for up to 75-150 men, I realized I wanted to be on the other side of the buffet table. These men were working only 12 hours a day, and were paid three times more than my mother and I.”

Lyon’s moved on, taking up part time jobs while trying to find employment in order to start a career. “Now after praying, I landed a permanent full-time job, and take small semi-driving jobs like hauling up north, or driving across country. I continued to apply myself to jobs and careers that suited my skills and knowledge.”

She began teaching Essential Life Skills, and eventually she did find a job. It worked out for several years, but eventually Lyon’s was tempted by a more promising offer. A job at SIIT, which she thought she would never get.

“But I applied anyway, and got the dream job I never expected. Now I’m in a position where I help guide, mentor, encourage, empower, and inspire others to do whatever they dream and pray for. My position with SIIT construction careers here in Prince Albert gives me the ability to help others every day.”

Lyon’s experience in teaching, not only in heavy equipment, but also in essential life skills, has given her a reason to feel she has made a change. When asked what her personal goals are, she humbly replied, “My personal goals and dreams came true with the help of our creator as he guides us in all four directions. My children, Jonathan (26) and Christopher (23), my grandson, Liam (3), and my retirement shack at Denare Beach, Saskatechewan, awaits me. Til then, I have planted my seeds here at SIIT, and my roots are growing deep and strong.”

Lyon’s has no regrets, she loves her work and believes her decision to teach at SIIT was the true turning point in her career. “After having the opportunity to teach essential life skills to various groups (up to 25 students) throughout the industry in the central and western provinces, I was notified about an opportunity to teach for SIIT in 2014. I’ve never taught on a scale this large, it seemed. At the time, I was working in partnership with the city of Saskatoon as the city engineer, clearing and making the land ready for a new residential area. I was also the first female H.E.O. instructor for both SIIT and city of Saskatoon. On such a scale, the privilege was so uncomprehensive. To teach in an environment where everyone wants each, and every student to shine, engage, inspire, empower, and achieve was their motto! I was in awe in a surrounding filled with all the people and things I’ve been loving to do my entire life. Above and beyond my wildest dreams. Now it’s time to prove to others that they can do what ‘‘ve done with the backing, knowledge, and empowerment from the huge province wide institution of SIIT.”