The Best for His People: Brennan Googoo Works With Youth for a Brighter Future
“I’m from Mi'kma'ki and I just want the best for my people,” shares Brennan Googoo of Millbrook First Nation. Something he heard a lot was “our reserves never lack talent, just resources,” and he’s seen that firsthand. As someone working with youth in his community, it’s a reality he wants to change.
When he was a youth, playing lacrosse, jujitsu, going to the gym and spending time with friends brought him a lot more joy than going to school. His university business school aspirations came to a crashing halt when he found he wasn’t good enough at lacrosse to get a full scholarship. Instead, he ended up playing club ball and going to school in the Maritimes. What he would learn the first time around was he wasn’t really built for post secondary.
He left on a medical withdrawal to take some time off after losing one of his best friends. He decided to make his own education because as a hands-on learner, he was bored and distracted in class. He transferred to St. Mary's University in Halifax and became part of and later Vice President of the Indigenous students society there. He interacted with faculty and leadership there and started to look at education differently. He found confidence and community and later he found himself looking for work.
Working on commercial fishing boats and taking part in internships at places like TD insurance helped him build work experience and skills. He got to visit his people’s sacred sites and was gifted a tie by a colleague, something that touched his heart. He learned about data entry, data analysis and how to create a space where people felt like they belonged as part of the Indigenous youth internship program. At the end of the program, he posted on his snapchat that he was willing to work anywhere in the world, he just needed something to do.
That snapchat story led Three Things Consulting to reach out and send him a plane ticket to Kingston, Ontario. Three Things stands for ”you matter, you're important and you belong”, a philosophy central to everything they do. He fell in love with working for youth, sleeping on an air mattress near his desk while he worked on designing a youth event, Carriers of Hope AFN event. Three Things had powerful programming, meaningful work and he loved the opportunity to be mentored by Peter Hodgson and his team.
Whether planning a youth event, posting on social media or consulting with organizations around Reconciliation, the company brings Indigenous or Two Spirit lenses to different issues for groups who want to learn. Working with clients like the federal government and the Girl Guides, they find ways to move forward towards Reconciliation. They also host a weekly talk show.
On the ground, in the field and in the office, he was able to develop and deliver programming, travelling weekly to different First Nations communities, meeting amazing Indigenous people and enjoying the work. He went home thinking, “This is what I want to do. I don't know how I'm gonna do it. But this is what gives me some purpose.” In his home community, he would find a new professional home.
Growing up, Googoo would spend time at the office where his father worked with the non profit Ulnooweg. Over 25 years later, his dad was still working there and the organization had expanded considerably. The Education Center they run develops and delivers programming which combines STEAM with Indigenous ways of knowing and being. The organization also provided financing for Indigenous businesses. After coming to a deal with Mastercard Foundation, they ended up creating a new department called the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation.
Just before the pandemic hit, the jobs were posted and he was reluctant to apply. Growing up on reserve, people always talked about how unfair nepotism was so he went out of his way to avoid working with family. His mom convinced him to apply and he went through a hiring process. Googoo got the job and is still there four years later.
Working with Indigenous youth was something that he knew he wanted to do but he wasn’t sure exactly how. He’s still refining what that looks like even now. Growing up on reserve, he was around a lot of poverty, struggles and violence. At the same time, he also learned from a lot of beautiful people, ceremonies, traditions, food, stories and laughter. He loved being raised there, but they didn’t have a lot of programming. Once he started going to youth conferences and summits, he was profoundly impacted.
He gained so much in participating and wanted to keep it going for his peers, family and friends. “I'm not too worried about whether they take it or not, that's up to them. But as long as we have as much opportunity as possible in and around community, that's all I care about,” he reflects.
If he could send a message to his younger self it would be, “just keep pushing and don't forget where you come from. Don't forget where you want to go…. Don't forget what you want for your people.” Similarly, his advice for Indigenous students thinking about leaving their home community would be to do their due diligence, research and study the places they want to go see, becoming infatuated with their new adventure. The first time he left his community, he was 19 and heading off on a solo backpacking trip. Feeling the fear as he looked at the tickets, he channeled his courage to take the leap.
To balance his mental health and wellness, he’s getting back to being more physically active, with jujitsu and walking his job. Jujistsu is something he loves because it’s a whole body workout that’s highly strategic. He’s found it to be mentally and physically stimulating and he loves how much he can do without hurting himself.
When he needs to find inspiration, Googoo looks to the people he used to know, to his community and the people he’s friends with. He’s inspired by his family and sometimes he drives around where he lives and pictures better things for his community.
He’s from Mi'kma'ki and just wants the best for his people. Brennan Googoo of Millbrook First Nation saw how his reserve never lacked talent, just resources and as someone working with youth in his community, it’s a reality he wants to change. With innovative programming, he’s doing his best to give this generation of youth what he didn’t have himself in the form of opportunities and a whole lot of hope.
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.