When you speak with Vera Tourangeau, even over the phone, she inspires you with her energy and passion.
Vera herself was inspired to attend the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) by her Uncle Harry who was “a big advocate for education for Peepeekisis” and Dr. Oliver Brass, who was her mother’s first cousin.
“He was the president at the time,” says Vera. “So it was easier for us to know someone there.”
Vera remembers the first time she experienced institutional racism. A professor at the University of Regina told her, ‘Indians cannot make it through the Education program.’
“That made me more motivated to make it,” said Vera.
She also dealt with tokenism, especially when she was the only First Nations student in class.
“I had to have every answer (about) First Nations,” says Vera. “Like I had to know everything about Bella Coola and know everything about the Mi’kmaq.”
When asked who else inspired her, she quickly adds Education professor Linda Goulet.
“No matter what, [she would say] ‘You can do it!’,” remembers Vera. “I think she was the most supportive in all my time in university.”
When convocation arrived, Vera celebrated with her SIFC peers.
“I loved it. It was successful. Oliver (Brass) gave us a rose,” she says.
But, Vera decided not to go to her University of Regina convocation.
“I went to the parking lot but I never went in because of the racism,” she says.
Today, Vera teaches at Peepeekisis Pesakastew School in Balcarres, Saskatchewan.
“I’m back in the high schools teaching Native studies with a passion. I love it,” she says.
She has also written two books focusing on Indigenous youth: Miss It Hurts and My Kokum Prayed For Me, the latter of which was adapted for the stage.
Her writing has given her opportunities to speak all over the country.
“I spoke in the Canadian Senate. I spoke to Parliamentarians because of my love for our people, for the First Nations children,” says Vera.
In 2012, Vera received the Distinguished Humanitarian & Community Service Award at the University of Regina Alumni Crowning Achievement Awards. This award recognizes the work of an individual who has made a difference and contributed toward the well-being of others.