Community Leaders: Kellie Kerpan

Kellie Kerpan

Kellie Kerpan is a community leader from Badger who was nominated for this segment by a number of people. This demonstrates that Kellie is truly a leader and is making a difference in her community. Upon asking Kellie to take part in this segment she said she was surprised and humbled to be nominated, “I do not see myself as any different or stand out any more than my neighbor.  I have a passion for bettering and helping my people.”

For Kellie, being L’nu is her core identity and has been from a very young age. “I have been so fortunate that our family has never hidden who we are as L’nu people.  Though people attempted to shame them for being L’nu, they stood proud of their heritage and genealogy,” she explained.

This is particularly important to Kellie because her grandfather, John Paul was born and raised in a time where being a part of any tribe of Indigenous people was considered a bad thing, she explained, “my grandfather and other relatives often spoke of the racism and poor attitudes towards the Indigenous people that were present in Badger in their time.  They were often treated as servants, not allowed to other children’s birthday parties or gatherings.  Often, they were shunned from jobs with the “company” if it were known you were Mi’Kmaw.”

Kellie is a very active member of the community she sits on the executive of the cultural group, Na’taqamtug and she has coordinated and facilitated a number of cultural activities in her community. “I am connected through the people, my crafting, and most importantly the land and water,” she said. The land and the water are healing for her and you can often find her walking the shorelines of in the forest wondering about our ancestors and the stories that have been passed down. “It is in those times, I know I am connected, and they can hear me and my prayers,” she said. Kellie describes herself as a spiritual person, partaking in sweats when available, making offerings, smudging, sharing knowledge and yearning to be connected to others and to learn from them.

Kellie lives her life in honor of her ancestors and she tries “to effect positive change and opportunities for all Indigenous people,” she said, “ I live each day to try to be better for my child, to teach him things that were taught to me, to learn new things, to listen to the Elders, take the time to sit and appreciate them and all they have been through.  Be kind, be thoughtful, be loving, to forgive and to share what you have, even if you do not want to.”

It was in 2015 when Kellie returned to Badger after living away for many years in Alberta and British Columbia when she felt a huge void in culture and cultural activities for her son. During a drum making event in Badger facilitated by Qalipu Kellie, along with Colleen Paul, held a discussion with Michelle Matthews and it was decided that they would start a group in Badger. The group has since been a huge success and something that many community members had been longing for and needing.

Kellie has brought many activities to the community, oftentimes donating her personal supplies so these activities could happen. The community has seen drum making, moccasin, ribbon skirt/shirt classes, beading, dreamcatchers, birch bark baskets, porcupine quillwork, jewelry making and delivering NIPD events, harvesting and teaching others how to prep and tan and smoke a moose hide for craft use, and many other events, many of which were taught by Kellie herself. She has also facilitated a land-based learning camp with other partners, snowshoe making, mitten making, a youth, and elder group, organizing and starting and indigenous youth dance group, and going to local schools or other organizations to share culture and activities. She has also developed a program where the youth and Elders come together for an annual harvest of various foods in late summer/early fall. The foods are collected, preserved, and then dispersed to Elders and those in need in the community.

This all started in Badger when Kellie saw a need and worked hard herself to fill this cultural gap in the community that many people were longing to have filled for a long time. It is because of her son and her longing to share culture with him that really inspired Kellie to start hosting community events. “It is extremely important to me that my son knows the importance of being connected to others, sharing and caring, and the joy of doing for others that the creator brings you.  Throughout the year, we will make cookies, meals or crafts and distribute them to various members in our town.  Throughout this pandemic, I have realized more than ever the power of physical sharing and connections.  A week into the pandemic, Jaxon asked me about the Elders and youth and how I thought they were doing.  It was at that time, I realized just how much we missed them all and needed them.  Jaxon and I have made bread (over 20 loaves each week), cookies, various meals, and cold plates and delivered them to the Elders in town every Sunday afternoon. We have also put together kits for youth and delivered them. It gives us the connection we need to maintain and in turn gives the Elders a little bit of company and a good meal, even if it is from a distance and a short time,” Kellie said.

When asked about her vision for the future of Qalipu First Nation, Kellie explained her thoughts saying that the band needs to heal. Kellie said, “We have generations of trauma that need to be acknowledged and addressed. Acknowledging the damaging impacts of trauma on health while having great faith in the healing powers of resilience and cultural, spiritual, and traditional knowledge and medicine is needed.  We need a cohesive band of people who want what is best for all.  Our band is made up of wonderful members who have lots to contribute to programs and projects, we need to utilize their expertise and consult.  It is important that we honor our Elders and youth.  We need to do better for them.  Our Elders are our link to the past and the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. It is imperative that we bring our people back to the land.  The land is where the true organic healing happens. As a young band, we have done some amazing work, but we have much work left to do.”