Jade Roberts is an educator, artist, and podcaster from the Lac La Ronge Indian band in Northern Saskatchewan. Inspired by lingering questions about her father’s years in the residential school system, Jade examines the history, mission, and impact of residential schools through interviews with survivors in her podcast “Still Here, Still Healing”.2
Jade’s curiosity and intelligence helped her excel at school, but there was a down side to her early accomplishments: “I graduated from high school a year early, so I was only 16 when I graduated. And I didn’t really have a plan; I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. … I felt really young and I didn’t feel like I was in a position to make those big choices for myself yet.”
Allowing herself time to grow and explore the world around her, Jade spent the next two years trying out different jobs “to figure out what I wanted to do.” What she found was a passion for working with young people. “[It] sparked a lot of joy for myself. It made me really happy….That’s when I decided I wanted to get into education.” At 18, Jade applied and was accepted to the University of Saskatchewan.
Jade was nervous about making the transition from her quiet life in a small town to the unfamiliar world of university in the city of Saskatoon. “I only moved four hours away, but within that four hour stretch of highway, it’s like a totally different world.” She spent the next four years pursuing the Indian Teacher Education Programme.
Those years flew by for Jade, as she quickly adapted to her new surroundings, made interesting new friends, and finding meaning in her studies. “It was the best choice that I’ve ever made for myself…. It was life-changing for me. It’s incredible that there is a program focused on Indigenous students for Indigenous education….It really allowed me to explore my identity and my culture and learn my language.”
Jade was inspired to explore the richness of her Indigenous heritage and to help the next generation do so as well. After graduating with a teaching degree, Jade began teaching Cree language and culture (as well as a bit of arts and phys ed). And while she enjoyed her time as a teacher, she felt something was missing. In her own words, she had a “creative itch that needed scratching.”
From a young age, Jade felt she was supposed to follow the same path as everyone else. “That’s something I struggled with as a teenager: Okay, everybody’s partying, I guess I need to party. Everybody has a boyfriend, I guess I need a boyfriend.” However, her years at university gave her the courage to break from that mould and follow her own path.
“I think a big message that I would like to tell youth is that it’s okay not to follow the crowd….It’s okay to do your own thing.” Jade moved her education work to part time as a substitute teacher, which allowed her the flexibility to pursue her own creative projects, such as her artwork, her writing, and of course her podcast.
Jade taught herself the technical side of podcasting, how to record, upload and promote her show, and as she says, “I’m still learning as I go.” Through her interviews, she is able to answer questions about the residential school system and about her own father’s experiences. “We had a formal apology in 2008 and people were starting to speak about [residential schools] more. At that time, I was learning and I didn’t have anyone to go to to ask questions because my father had passed away. But I was curious. I had so many questions.”
Jade’s bravery to forge her own path, and to seek out answers to difficult questions, have provided her with many rewards, including creative outlets, new career paths, and improvements in her own mental health and well being. “The world is a weird place right now, and I think we’re all trying to find ways to adjust and adapt to the changing times…. having this time to be creative and try new things is keeping my mental health in check.”
Unsurprisingly, Jade’s advice to youth is advice she lives by: “My advice would be just to be brave. Your community will always be there if you want to go back; it’s not going anywhere. So be brave and take that chance….It might take time, you might be lonely, but you will find who you need to find and you’ll make your own community where you are.”
Special thanks to Jessica Dee Humphreys for authoring this blog post.
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.