In October 2019 Jasmine Collis, Non-Insured Health Benefits Support Specialist with Qalipu, attended a three-week residency at Coady International Institute in Antigonish, NS, as a part of the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program. Each year Indigenous women leaders from across the country are awarded a full scholarship to complete the IWCL program, which focuses on designing a community project that will have a positive impact on their communities. The program covers Indigenous Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), which filters the concept of ABCD through a cultural lens. Each morning began with a smudge, followed by teachings provided by an Elder.
The first group task demonstrated the ABCD concept quite clearly. The group of 19 women leaders were assigned the task of assembling a Tipi with no help from instructors or staff. The group had to work together to use each woman’s knowledge and/or skills to raise the tipi poles and wrap the canvas. Using innovative and creative techniques, the tipi was raised and stood tall. Each woman then had the opportunity to paint on the tipi, alongside many other women who had previously completed the program.
Jasmine noted, “Hearing about the projects that the other women are developing and getting to know them, and their backgrounds, was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget. The three weeks were full of inspiration and I felt very empowered as an Indigenous woman. I have come to realize how unique our Nation’s history is in Newfoundland, compared to other First Nations across Canada. Our story is one that we need to keep telling, as we reclaim our culture.”
This year was the first time Coady hosted an IWCL Gathering of the past cohorts. The three-day conference included over 100 Indigenous women leaders from across the country, with keynote speaker Dr. Ngahuia Te Awekotuku of New Zealand delivering an account of the struggles, barriers, and strengths of Indigenous people from her home country.
Jasmine said that the presentation on the Māori people was powerful. She said, “Following her presentation, the auditorium sang the Strong Women’s Song to her while one woman drummed. It was an incredibly moving experience.”
Since her return home Jasmine has begun working on her community project, which will focus on supporting Indigenous youth in her community, by creating the opportunity for youth to speak for themselves and to conduct their own ABCD approach to the needs of the youth.