Reclaiming Identity at the First Nations University of Canada

After realizing something was missing, Joely Bigeagle-Kaquahtooway found a place that would help her reclaim it in identity.

Joely grew up in Regina and Saskatoon.

“The moccasin flats, the hoods,” says Joely. “I didn’t really see it as the hood I just saw it as the place where all the Indians were.”

While growing up in the urban areas, Joely didn’t know that the lifestyle she lived was anything but average, or the way it was supposed to be. She had grown up not knowing anything about her culture and assuming it just didn’t exist anymore.

Her mother always exposed her to religion and never forced it upon her. Showing her different types of religion and leaving it up to her to choose. At the age 14, Joely and her family moved to their reserve, White Bear First Nations.

“It was then when I really started to blossom, and come out of this shell that I had created for myself,” says Joely.

At 17 she decided to go to university, and attended the University of Regina. There she felt alone and decided to move to the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC). There she was able to find herself and reclaim her identity as an Aboriginal woman.

With help from many professors, especially Dr. Jalan, the Dean of the Department of Science at the time, she was able to feel connected. She was not lonely anymore.

“I just really thought that everybody was there to see me succeed,” says Joely.

Her peers also helped a lot along the way, especially knowing she wasn’t going through school alone. They helped even when she would forget lunch or just not have one.

“There would be always somebody there willing to share their lunch,” she says.

When she graduating in 1995, Joely was a single mother of two. Now she is an engineer at Sask Energy, has a boutique called Tatanka Boutique, and owns her own designs.

She and her husband have also started a program called Buffalo Teaching.