Making Her Dreams Stick: Native Love Notes Founder Amy Jackson Teaches Art and Healing
“Life has its way of really getting in the way when you're trying to work towards your goals,” Amy Jackson reflects. Even with life getting in the way, she found a way to reach her goals and make her dreams really stick. Jackson, founder of Native Love Notes, is from Opaskwayak Cree Nation, living on Treaty One territory, in Winnipeg, Manitoba and she worked with Connected North to develop a presentation that includes a sticker build as part of a talk about mental health and the value in art and humor in healing. While she teaches virtually in the classroom Jackson is also a master’s degree student, pursuing a degree in Native Studies with a focus on history, building on her BA in history.
The stickers experience aspect of her presentation comes from her entrepreneurship journey which came about during the pandemic. She created funny designs to share with friends so they could make each other laugh. Someone suggested she make them into stickers and now she has over 100 different items in her shop. “Within a month of printing my first batch of stickers, I had a full shop up and running on Shopify, and things have just taken off incredibly since,” she beams.
She enjoys working with the kids through Connected North, their humour, banter and creativity. “Just give them a chance to be creative and they take off. It's great,” she exclaims. While she loves contributing to the classroom, she delayed going to university until she was 28 and ready for a change. During her undergraduate studies, she faced many challenges but she got into a master's program with funding and she’s full of gratitude for the opportunities she’s been given.
Her time in elementary school was hard too. She dealt with bullying, got into fights and her homelife was difficult, raised by parents who came from poverty and with her mother being a residential school survivor. These difficulties contributed to mental health challenges, and she transferred schools so she could go to art classes to bring up her grades. She graduated and started working to support herself.
At 23, she was recruited by a member of parliament, Nikki Ashton, to work in her office. She did so for ten years and still works there sometimes on a contract basis. In her twenties she worked in politics, travelled and played music. She played the fiddle, banjo and piano, her music taking her all over Canada and the world.
Working in politics, she loved outreach, travelling between communities and meeting people all over the north. “My favorite part was going into these communities, meeting with the people, sitting down at their tables, having tea with them and visiting and hearing their stories and their struggles and seeing what I could do for them and how I can help them navigate either government or services or things like that,” she recalls.
Her advice for youth who want to travel to pursue school or opportunities is “it's important to have that foundation, whether it's a good friend, or a family member, a cousin, whoever it is someone that you're still close with, from your community that'll keep you grounded and help you remember who you are. There will be times where you feel lost, and you're unsure about your own identity and where you fit in in the world. Your friend, or your cousin or someone from your community will always remind you of who you are and your value.” For Jackson, being connected to community where she is is important.
“Healing from childhood trauma. I don't think it ever finishes, but there is work that you can do on yourself to help cope with it when it comes up again.”
Having a good loving and caring system and therapy helped Jackson overcome her difficult childhood. She encourages youth who are struggling not to be afraid of medication if it’s needed, because it can help eliminate the distraction of strong emotions and keep the focus on healing. Jackson also had to heal from things later in life, like the trauma of a nearly fatal car accident. Her studies and having things to work towards helped her though.
University created challenges for Jackson’s mental health and she doesn’t feel alone in that. “Everyone in university that I know struggles with burnout. Sometimes it can be so heavy that it'll even trigger… old trauma and things like that, because that's how your body tends to respond,” she explains. She knows firsthand how burnout, depression, anxiety and pressure can make school almost feel impossible.
If she could give her younger self advice it would be “Be kind to yourself. Treat your body well. I didn't care for my body much because I was struggling so much with my mental health and it could lead to other health issues. I wish that I could go back and tell myself, ‘there's nothing wrong with you, you're beautiful and take care of yourself.”
She’s inspired in what she does today by other artists and activists. “I'm just inspired by people's tireless advocacy for what is right and for justice for indigenous people in this country. I think that our larger indigenous community, even though we're tired, even though we're exhausted, even though we're in pain, even though all these things, we keep persevering, and pushing, and moving and organizing and creating and giving. I think that our broader Indigenous community is so beautiful, and inspiring,” she smiles.
Overcoming childhood trauma and difficult educational experiences, Amy Jackson is back to being a student in grad school, while teaching lessons in art and healing in Connected North classrooms. Life got in the way while she was pursuing her goals, but Amy Jackson found a way to make her dreams (and designs) stick and she’s helping youth do the same for themselves in exploring their creativity and believing in themselves.
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.