Kallie Wood knows about the importance of embracing personal heritage. She discovered her own native heritage as a young adult. Now, as Briercrest’s new First Nations and Metis coordinator, she wants to help other young people to do the same.
As an infant, Wood was adopted by a white family who lived in Caron. When she was 19 and began college, she learned more about her own history.
“I always knew that I was native,” she said. “But we didn’t realize to what degree. I am an Assiniboine Cree. I’m a Registered Status Treaty Indian. I belong to a reservation. I’m a member of the Carry the Kettle Band at Sintaluta, Sask.”
Wood is stepping into a position that was created two years ago at Briercrest. Her goal is to be a resource for the First Nations students who are already at Briercrest as well as to encourage others to attend.
“Briercrest is a phenomenal facility to bring them into – not only for the seminary or for the college, but also for the high school,” she said. “It kind of would be a complete journey.”
Although each First Nations student has his or her own unique story, Wood is familiar with some of the challenges they may face.
“There are lots of cultural differences,” she said. “I want to make sure I’m accessible – letting them know there’s someone here that’s going to cater to their needs. A lot of them don’t want to self-identify for various reasons, but self-identifying is important because of the funding and financing that may possibly be available to them.”
One of the immediate ways that Wood is trying to network with other First Nations and Metis groups is through Briercrest’s First Nations and Metis Facebook page. She hopes that current students will share their stories on the site so that more Aboriginal students will be encouraged to attend.
“We’re just getting on board and trying to get the message out there,” she exclaimed.
Wood also looks forward to planning an Aboriginal Awareness Week at Briercrest scheduled for March 11-15, 2013.
“We have lots of great planning to do,” she said. “It is an opportunity that will foster lasting friendships and build effective team work, while educating fellow Briercrest students.”
The coordinator is realistic about process of reaching more First Nations students. But she feels she’s equipped for the job.
“It’s a baby-step process,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. I am a very approachable person and love a challenge. I can’t wait to get started.”