Bonita Nowell

Creating a Supply Chain of Care: Bonita Nowell Procures a Legacy of Love

“I would never have imagined my path in life would have taken me where I am today. There's going to be some interesting side roads and forks in the road. How do you want to look back on your life? What do you want to leave behind? Share your gift generously. Whatever that may be,” muses Bonita Nowell. She is Métis and was born and lived in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories for the first ten years of her life before moving to Alberta with her mom. She returned 35 years ago to establish her career and her family. 

“How do you want to look back on your life? What do you want to leave behind? Share your gift generously. Whatever that may be.”

In addition to being a supply chain management professional and president of the Northern Territories Institute of Supply Chain Canada, she’s also a published author and an award-winning collaborator in public policy and post-secondary program management. With over three decades of experience in the public sector backing her, she shares her wisdom as a consultant now. 

She answers one of the biggest questions about her career, explaining, “What is supply chain? Well, that's procurement, logistics and its operations… that whole suite of door-to-door activity that is happening around the world and even in your community, how you get things to the store.”

Procurement became her career because her first job was working in an operating room in a part-time role and she witnessed so often that the medical staff didn’t have what they needed, wasting time and delaying care. Management took an interest in addressing the problem and as a curious person, she was interested in solving it. They created a different part-time role for her in procurement to bridge the gaps that were interfering with patient wellness. 

Her understanding of the clinician’s needs made her good at her job and the realization she had that one day the patient needing care could be one of her nine siblings solidified her commitment to excellence. That personal mission drove her desire to do her best throughout her career. 

These days, she works from home as an active president of her association, working on the organization’s governance with an eye toward improvement within their nonprofit. Supply Chain Management Professional is the masters-level designation they confer and Nowell was the first to be designated in the Northwest Territories. 

As part of her educational path, Nowell satisfied the prerequisites for her designation through various universities and the association. She took classes from Athabasca University, Arctic College, University of Alberta, University of Western Ontario and later graduated from the University of Calgary’s creative writing program. 

The book she wrote is My Mother's Legacy and she’s about to release it in audiobook format. She was inspired to write by Alex Haley’s book, Roots. Part of her mother’s journey included traveling to share her story with and receive an apology from the Pope alongside the other delegates who went to the Vatican. Given her family separated when she was a child, she lost and later wanted to reestablish connection. A lifetime tracing both sides of her family prepared her to write the book and teach others to research their genealogy long before technology and the internet made things easier. 

To find her family roots, she would write letters, request documents, travel and interview elders and relatives. That research, funded from her own money and on her own time,  taught her she is a sixth-generation Northerner and a direct descendant of François Beaulieu, patriarch of the Métis in the Northwest Territories. The effort had her working with churches, gathering documents from museums and archives, from the Hudson’s Bay Company, and vital statistics. Everyone she encountered was positive and when she met her mother’s community priest, she got to know how deep her roots really went into the Northern tundra. 

Her advice to students thinking about leaving their community to learn abroad or travel is thoughtful. “It's really important to lead a good life and to practice the relationships of respect with yourself and others and elders and family, your community, the land and a spiritual world, however that is represented for you. When you do that, and you are a good person and go out and be this way with others, your path will be a lot smoother, and more doors will open for you,” she suggests.

When she was making her way in the world, the biggest obstacles she had to overcome were her own fears and doubts, a process she likened to a baby giraffe learning to walk. She recommends surrounding oneself with positive and supportive people who support professional growth to get over those limiting beliefs. 

If she could give a message to her younger self it would be to go to university sooner rather than later. Something she learned from moving away from the North and then returning was the opportunity to expand her perspective and to understand how needed an Indigenous point of view is, now more than ever. 

“The Indigenous point of view is really, really important and can contribute to so many areas of our lives near and far. We see things and we feel things a lot differently and they need us. That perspective is needed in so many areas right now, with the chaos going around us around the world. That Indigenous perspective is really, really needed and I know that it's helping,” Nowell shares. 

To keep her mental health in check, Nowell practices respect by caring for herself, her family, her dog, and her community through participation and volunteerism. She surrounds herself with healthy people, engages in healthy activities, and contributes to the positive work of others, inspired by those who share their gifts. 

Reiterating her message of hope, Bonita Nowell says, “Please share your gifts generously. Please share understanding and wisdom, things that you learn. pass that along so others have a smoother way. Do that generously, please.” She never imagined life would take her where she ended up, but driven by love and care for her family, she created a supply chain of care and set in motion the logistics to bring together a career and a legacy that she could be proud of.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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