Bringing Urban Community Together: Jocelyn Campeau Builds Safe Spaces and Safety Nets for Families
“As an Indigenous person with trauma, it was hard finding proper supports, and not knowing where to go,” recalls Jocelyn Campeau. It’s a reality she’s trying to change in her work every day, so nobody else has to experience that pain if she can help it. Campeau is from Keeseekoose First Nation and lives in Saskatoon.
After high school, Campeau lacked direction and found herself at a crossroads, considering multiple paths. The path she didn’t see coming, motherhood, kept her home until she took the Indigenous teacher education program at University of Saskatchewan. Beyond her academic studies, she has found it has been a journey of reconnecting with her own Indigenous identity outside of the stereotypes that are prevalent in Saskatoon.
Later, she found her passion doing community support work, something that let her bring her personal life experience and her educational background into a way of helping people. She worked as the maternal child health coordinator and facilitator, assisting First nations across Saskatchewan. Building on that experience, she became interested in preventative work and finding ways to help the families in her area who had to take programming that shared colonized perspectives.
She had a dream for what could be instead. Campeau wanted to be able to provide an option that brought back culture and traditions, which brought to life the Indigenous Family Wellness Program. Now the Program Director of the Indigenous Family Wellness in Saskatoon, her team focuses on keeping families together, bringing together culture and healing.
After growing up with a non-Indigenous mother and an Indigenous father, and experiencing racism in a small, white community, not getting to participate in cultural experiences, she’s learned how to deal with things differently. Her cultural practices have helped her in her parenting and recovery journey. What inspired her career path was “really wanting to help our people heal earlier, rather than later, and really wanting to start helping those on their journey so that we can provide the supports necessary when it comes to connecting with culture.” She wanted to provide a safe space for people to heal, knowing what it was like when her family faced trauma and couldn’t find the help they needed.
Some of the access challenges come from being in an urban setting, without a central location to learn about culture. “It's really hard to sit there and connect to yourself as an Indigenous person, unless you grew up with the teachings,” she explains. One of the areas she focuses on is traditional parenting, bringing in the teachings of specific communities so people can connect with the teachings of their home communities and find where they fit.
Campeau knows how good it feels to find where you fit, after her own positive experiences of attending feasts, round dances, spending time with elders, learning to jingle dance and about medicines. Those experiences left her wanting to learn more about the things that were missing in her life. What she found was information about how to connect with those services was lacking for people outside the university community, for people who struggled with access to the internet and just how resourceful you had to be to find cultural connection in an urban community.
That experience of not knowing where to turn is why Campeau's organization delivers cultural programming to bring cultural awareness, learning, family bonding, and to build a community where people are excited to gather. They provide healing circles as a safe place to talk about and release the things that are troubling them without judgment. She knows firsthand how strong connections are an important part of a healing journey as well as a safety net and a safe place.
Something she’s found personally helpful is the flexibility she has in her job to attend to her child’s needs and make up the time. Given the prevalence of trauma in Indigenous families, this is something that’s important to her and something she sees as supportive for increasing Indigenous representation in her workplace. Working with a company that understands the importance of family work life balance has made a difference in her family. She has found passion in her work and focuses on her goals which contributes positively to her mental wellbeing.
By focusing on what she can control and letting go of everything else, she’s found a better ability to cope. While finding time for herself as a mother of three has been hard, especially with their extracurricular activities, she’s still working on self care as best she can. Her husband helps out and she’s learned to let go of her perfectionism and the unrealistic standards she’s tried so hard to live up to that other people have set for her.
In fact, if she could share a message with her younger self it would be ”Stop living to the standards of others, and set your own.” Being a homeowner isn’t something she’s ever wanted and she’s learned there’s no time limit for going back to school. She also reserves the right to change her mind about her educational path, where she works and lives and is pursuing her second degree. She doesn’t believe in trying to outperform other people in her life and just focuses on doing what she can with what she has. She’s learning to make peace with failure knowing sometimes things take more than one try to get right and that's okay. “Because within every failure, there's learning,” she shares.
She’s putting everything she learns into her work, because as an Indigenous person with trauma, it was hard finding proper supports, and not knowing where to go. Every day, Jocelyn Campeau is trying hard to change that reality through her work, so nobody else has to go through trauma alone. Building community, a safety net and a safe place, she’s creating cultural connections and healing spaces where Indigenous people like her can thrive.
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.