A Housing Win: Hockey Player Aaron Wesley Chisel Shoots His Shot at a New Goal
“Keep your head up. Be persistent with whatever your goal is. Never give up and never quit, because quitters never win, but winners never quit. Just keep keep pushing on,” Aaron Wesley Chisel says, offering the words of encouragement he wished he could give his younger self. He wanted to play hockey, but he found a new goal.
The Lac Seul community member who was born and raised in Thunder Bay had to be a student to play hockey, so he took an upgrading program for Indigenous students. He tried business first, and when that was a miss, he took his shot at the field of Indigenous learning.
When he was failing academically and worried about being benched by his grades, a staff member in student success got him back on the ice. She let him know it wasn’t too late in the game to make a change. It ended up being the winning strategy he needed and he learned some important lessons.
Chisel learned more about the history his family has been a part of and he got to learn close to home, only travelling to compete with the hockey team. That said, he made the decision to move out of his parent’s house and be independent, learning to cook and manage his time as an adult.
“I was grateful for university, because not only did I learn and get a degree but it taught me values of life, to organize myself, and create a plan and stick to it. As long as you stick to it, and within that time frame, then eventually you'll be successful,” he reflects. Sticking to it, for Chisel, meant struggling against his challenges with numbers and financial literacy.
After failing his business classes, Chisel had to dig into his own pockets not once but twice to make up the difference, in keeping with the requirements of his funding program. While he rallied against his educational challenges, another challenge caught everyone by surprise: a pandemic.
COVID brought an end to the season and Chisel’s hockey career. Hockey had been the motivation behind his education and a big part of his life growing up because of his father’s love of the game. As soon as he was able to walk, his dad put him in skates and he skated as much as he could. Right up from three years old, Chisel was skating and playing hockey.
The reality of pandemic life outside of hockey was a challenge for Chisel, too. As an asthmatic, he had to stay home and while he lived with a partner, he felt stuck and the atmosphere was toxic. He started drinking until he realized he had to stop and find a new way to cope.
“I started smudging, and praying and whatnot and going outside, and just trying to be grateful for the little things, like being able to see the sun or the sky. The littlest stuff helped me feel some sort of positive aspect about myself in those uncertain times,” he recalls. Gratitude wasn’t the only lesson that left a lasting impact.
Along the way, he delved deep into the issues and policies that impact Indigenous people, dissecting legal policies in the Indian Act and the associated inter-jurisdictional implications. He learned more about pressing issues like housing. He got to thinking about carpentry and realized how he could contribute.
Now he is attending Confederation College to do just that. “I plan on learning how to build houses, and be a contractor and provide adequate housing for the First Nations people,” he explains. Keeping his head up, being persistent whatever his goal, never giving up and never quitting, he’s pushing on with a new goal in sight. A member of the home hockey team, Aaron Wesley Chisel found a vision for the future: building homes and helping Indigenous communities get their shot at adequate housing.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.