Indigenous Mom at Law: Creating Change and Community
Alyson Bear, a Dakota and Anishinaabe woman, wanted to create change in the world. She was inspired to study law by Patricia Monture, a Mohawk lawyer and mother of her childhood friend. Bear is a 2020 law school graduate who has signed to McKercher, a law firm in Saskatoon. Her journey to becoming a lawyer was one with many barriers to overcome.
“If I'm going to create change, I want to be a lawyer because I'm seeing these other Indigenous advocates take that route.”
Bear started post-secondary at Langara College in Vancouver, but got into a car accident and had to come home to heal. Ultimately, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 2017, took her LSAT exam and applied to law school. She minored in Indigenous Studies and majored in Sociology. She got into law school at UBC and University of Saskatchewan and had to make a choice.
“My life's really been just a juggling act between school and motherhood, and being a student and being a mom.”
She really wanted to attend UBC, her dream school, and she packed her two kids up to move to Vancouver. She had no support system and things quickly began to unravel. Three weeks later her grandmother was in a serious accident and she transferred back home to University of Saskatchewan. She learned a valuable lesson about the importance of family support.
“It is really important when you're trying to do anything to have support; my family, my brothers, my parents, my aunties, they really help out. It was essential to be here.”
That’s why she believes any youth thinking of leaving home to pursue a career or post-secondary should focus on having a support system of healthy people to lean on, and looking to campus clubs to make friends. She also suggests having a vision board. Her own vision board features a master’s degree from Harvard and pictures of Vancouver. Struggling without family support in a new town was challenging, but it wasn’t the only barrier Bear has had to face.
Injuries from car accidents created challenges for Bear, including one where she went face first through a windshield and lost an eye. She coped with her anxiety, PTSD, insecurities and lack of self confidence with alcohol until she got sober in July of 2013. Sobriety supported better grades in school and helped her establish stability. Her second car accident severed her liver, broke her ribs and required the removal of her gallbladder.
“I'm not telling anybody that they need to quit drinking totally. But I'm just saying it has worked for me, and it has done me and my children, nothing but good things. I do not think I would have been able to achieve a law degree if I wasn't sober.”
Her advice to her younger self is “Reach out to your elders before it's too late. Spend more time with them. You just don't know how much time they have.” There was so much Bear wanted to learn from her grandmother about language and culture but she passed away. Thinking of newly single moms, she also said, “You can do everything that you're going to do with your kids. Whatever it is, you'll handle it, you'll get through it.” Raising two kids as a single mom has been hard but she has still achieved her dreams.
To get through the challenges of the pandemic, Bear takes the time to get ready and do her makeup. She reorganized her basement and created some stability through a routine that still allowed for flexibility and fun. She encourages others struggling to take time to eat well and take care of themselves. While she recognizes the tragic consequences for those who did not survive, she offered, “I think this is the time that has been given to us to slow down.”
Her daughter inspired her pandemic cosmetics and in her work, she’s inspired by kinship ties and her ancestors. “Thinking about what my ancestors have endured, and thinking about what my grandparents have endured, and what my parents had to go through, and what they all had to go through so that we can be here and have what we have today, is super inspiring and keeps me motivated because somebody has to continue that work,” she shared.
Bear is also inspired by youth, explaining, “They are the future. And these little ones, if you're not inspired then I'm not sure what you're looking at.” She wants to see them live healthy lives free from addictions and other struggles within communities.
Becoming a lawyer required Alyson Bear to break down barriers for herself so she could succeed. Armed with a law degree, she’s ready to break down barriers for her children and the youth of tomorrow so they can succeed. This Dakota and Anishinaabe woman wanted to create change in the world, and with her education, culture and experience, she is ready to do just that.
Thanks to Alison Tedford 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.