Two indigenous students originally from Saik’uz First Nation, share the importance of education and community building.
Kirstie West is a counselling psychology masters student at Simon Fraser University, and has completed her psychology degree from SFU as well. Theresa John is a Criminology graduate from Simon Fraser University with a minor in First Nations study. She has also pursued law from Thompson Rivers University.
Being one of the first in Saik’uz to go to law school, John asks why there aren’t more following suit.
“If there is a stereotype that all natives get free education, shouldn’t we all be lawyers?” she asked.
“And that’s why I really want to emphasize the message to everybody that if I can do it, then everyone can.”
Another point John brings up is that a majority of indigenous people are caught up in the criminal justice system; which is why she went to law school.
“I went to law school to mitigate this reality. It shouldn’t be our reality and it’s not something we deserve. And it goes to show the systemic racism issues that come from all levels of government – municipal, federal and provincial. My long term goal is to have recognition of our own jurisdiction.”
Meanwhile, West wants to use her education to provide culturally-appropriate solutions to families within the indigenous communities in northern B.C.
She said it is important for her to help her community by providing mental health support.
“I am going to use an integrated approach using family system therapy and indigenous ways of knowing, creating a blended program that involves psychological assessments, using our cultures and traditions as a way of healing,” West said.