Generations of Giving Back: Alayna Krutko Serves Her Community Just Like Her Mom
“There's no shame in going at your own pace,” says Alayna Krutko. She took things at her own pace and ended up doing what she loves in her home community. Krutko was born in Inuvik, Northwest Territories and lives in Fort Providence. Her mother, a Gwich'in woman, was the first woman to serve as a renewable resource officer in their territory and her father is from Fort Resolution. She has Chippewa and Cree ancestry and both her grandmothers and her father attended residential schools.
“There was never doubts in my life about trying fields that were technically male dominant or going for whatever I wanted, because my mom did what she wanted."
Because of the work her mother did, Krutko was raised believing a woman can do whatever a man can do as well or better. Her mother was a humble, hardworking woman who did a lot of fundraising in the community to help people. That example served Krutko well as she embarked on her own career.
Grand Prairie Regional College was where she first went to post-secondary when she was just 18. She applied on a whim, got in, and struggled to find and afford housing, with depression and isolation. After a semester, she returned home and worked until she felt ready to try again. She was too young and naive when she first went out on her own and it was a good learning experience that helped her gain perspective.
Krutko suggests students who are overwhelmed consider dropping a course or two to get through it. she shares. Krutko was stubborn and didn’t adjust her course load, something she regrets. She put a lot of pressure on herself thinking her life and education had to follow a certain path. Looking back, she wishes she wasn’t so hard on herself.
In her twenties, Krutko went to Aurora College and studied criminal justice. Her first job was as a courtworker, but while it was a good way to get her foot in the door with the government, she found the role more administrative than she wanted. She went back to school and took management studies in Fort Smith to find her way into the Department of Infrastructure. It was work she enjoyed but she found being in Yellowknife as a single person just out of school with a lot of expenses difficult.
She moved back home to Fort Providence and applied for a work as a government service officer, something she’s done for the past ten years. She works with elders and the community, has a designation as a notary public and can issue marriage licenses. Through a partnership with Service Canada, she delivers services on behalf of the federal government as well.
Her tasks are varied, working in a one stop shop, and she enjoys all the trainings and certifications she gets to do. On Thursdays, they get to go visit with and help elders in the community and she’s proud to be part of the only arm of the Territorial government that is 100% Indigenous. The majority of her coworkers are women and she spends her time getting to the bottom of challenges faced by people in her community. She loves finding answers and solving problems.
The work that she does started as a pilot project and the roles have since spread out to other small communities based on their success. Now almost two dozen people do this work like she does. Networking with other departments is something she really enjoys, as well as other organziations, giving her chances to meet new people and create connections that benefit people in her home community.
Her advice for Indigenous students thinking of leaving their home communities is to ensure their funding is secure before they leave, whether in the form of bursaries and scholarships, because hidden expenses can add up. “It is scary, but it's rewarding. I don't think anybody goes through life without having a little bit of fear. It can be scary, but then you can get through it. Just take it one task at a time,”she recommends. She suggests making sure there are supports in place in a new community and to look into what services are available to Indigenous students.
Taking care of mental health is something else she thinks students should be mindful of. She tends to isolate under stress and has to remember to socialize and reach out when she needs help. “If you're having a hard time, just don't be afraid to speak out because there's a lot more support than you think you have in those moments. There's always going to be people willing to assist you on your journey,” she encourages.
“We're resilient, we're strong, and we can overcome things.”
“There is no shame in taking care of yourself. You matter more than anybody. You have to take care of you to take care of anybody else. Don't be afraid to reach out and take care of yourself while educating yourself or whatever you're doing on your journey. Because that is growing and learning as well,” she asserts. Krutko wishes she got help a lot sooner herself.
Thinking about all she and her family have overcome and the way Indigenous people are being recognized for their accomplishments, Krutko is filled with pride and inspiration. “I feel like we're finally being heard. We're finally being seen. There's still a lot of work to do. But… we're really out there like, not just with our arts and our culture, but they're recognizing that we are a big player in this country. We are a force. We are very powerful people. We are very resilient. We're very strong. We're very educated in our ways as well, not just in Western society. Canada could learn a lot from our peoples,” she beams. The elders and youth in her community inspire her too, along with her aunties and friends.
In closing, Alayna Krutko has words of encouragement for Indigenous youth. “I just want to encourage everyone to go for what they want … if you don't feel ready at the moment, it's fine to step back… rearrange things…. If you have a goal or a dream and you don't want to give up on it, just work for it.” There’s no shame in going at your own pace, as Krutko says. After all, that’s what she did, and she’s so happy with where she ended up, inspired by a trailblazing mother and helping in community like her mom always did.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
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.