An Anishinaabe woman seated beside a traditional drum.

How finding my culture helped guide me through higher education

Boozhoo, Ozawaabinesiik ndizhinikaaz, Bizhiw ndoodem, Couchiching ndoonji. Hello, my English name is Erika Jourdain, I come from the lynx clan and my community is Couchiching First Nation. I am a Social Services Worker student with Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI) currently working towards my diploma. I have an Honors Certificate in Office Administration and previously worked in the field for six years.

Take the leap

College or university isn’t for everyone. It’s really hard to know what you want to do and commit to it. Not everyone’s gifts show in a school setting, and that is something to recognize too. But, if you’re debating about going to school and you feel that pull, but you’re scared, my advice is to do it.

You don’t have to go into it knowing what you want to do with your life because that’s part of the journey. I’ve taken in every experience and used it to uncover passions, gifts, and parts of myself I didn’t know were there. Whether you complete your journey or not, going to school is something to be proud of and to look back on if you lose sight of your own strength. There is something to be learned in every experience. I tell myself, “Do the things you’re afraid of because you never know who’s watching and who you’re empowering.” In the end, you might find that that person is yourself.

My relationship with school

Before I started the Social Services Worker program with SGEI, education was something that I’d struggled with all my life. I’ve now realized that personal experiences and life lessons are all a part of that journey.

I’ve always had this internal pull towards higher education, simply to gain knowledge and experiences. I am very hard on myself and expect perfection when it comes to the work, which often led to a cycle of self-sabotage, quitting, and giving up. I’ve been humbled many times. However, all of this helped me find what nourishes my spirit and what gives me purpose. Huge parts of my growth came from the lessons I’ve learned throughout each step. The perseverance, resilience, and patience it took to get me to where I am today are gifts I didn’t know I had until I was in the midst of it all.

Finding my inspiration

Being a single parent of two children is only a small part of who I am. That exact phrase, “single parent,” used to be my excuse for settling in life and putting aside a future I dreamed of. But it’s also one of the many reasons I continue to work towards my goals and build my bundle.

I come from adversity, pain, and struggle, but most importantly, resilience. When I started to reflect and work to understand how my experiences have impacted my habits, reactions, and relationships, I began to wonder the same about others. I wanted to understand people better so that I could change my perspective. That’s when I decided to apply to the Social Services Worker program. I’ve now come to understand is that there is something much bigger happening than just learning terms, theory, and healthy coping skills.

Acknowledging my spirit and connecting to my culture

One thing that led me to this point is my culture and acknowledging my own spirit. Seven Generations Education Institute’s mission is to empower learning through language and culture.

As a young Indigenous woman who didn’t grow up traditionally, learning about my culture was something I knew I had to take advantage of. Walking into class on an early morning, looking into the circle room, and seeing the drum, Saagajiwe, and the smoke from burning sage and the sacred items helped me show up every day. For me, having a connection to sacred items and our language and culture provided me with strength, guidance, and inspiration to continue to share our stories and keep moving forward. It helped me create connections and relationships with people who have encouraged my journey to be closer to the creator, the drum, and my spirit. 

The greatest lesson I’ve learned is to never be afraid to challenge what you’re being taught. We all have so much to learn from each other, and when we can accept that humility is the foundation for growth, the opportunities are endless.

Pursue post-secondary programming in a culturally supportive environment

Seven Generations Education Institute offers a wide range of culturally enriched programming at its Fort Frances, Kenora and Sioux Lookout campuses. Pursue your educational and cultural journey with Seven Generations Education Institute and apply to a college or university program today.