Cycle Breaking: Katarina Tinqui Makes Changes For Her Family and Herself
”I just have a strong sense of what I want to do. I know that I’m very strong and I don’t give up. I just keep on trying and take it one day at a time. It’s hard, but it’s going to be worth it in the end,” says Katarina Tinqui. A Dene woman from Treaty 11, she comes from a bloodline of Chiefs and Grand Chiefs, from Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories. She left that behind for a new adventure.
Tinqui now lives in Calgary. She’s in her third-year criminal justice program at Mount Royal University as the first in her family to attend post-secondary for a degree program. She has always been interested in the criminal justice field and chose Mount Royal due to all the support they have for Indigenous students.
When she needs help, Tinqui can access free tutoring or even a mentor and find resources she needs through Mount Royal’s Indigenous center. The staff check in on students to make sure they are okay if they are far from home, like Tinqui. She came all the way to Alberta without any friends or family, and the support is so helpful since she’s on her own. Tinqui wants this time at school to be successful and extra assistance is a win for her.
After high school, she was pushed to go to college in Red Deer before she was ready. She took a visual arts program, then moved into an open studies program. She ended up going back home for a year until she felt ready to try again. She participated in a bridging program for Indigenous students to help her prepare for university and it made a big difference for her. When everything moved online she had a hard time. Learning from a computer screen isn’t her preference, especially recovering from a concussion with a brain that needs to heal.
“I'm in university, I'm very proud and happy to be here. I'm doing it for my family and also doing it for myself.”
Tinqui was encouraged to study by her grandfather. He said, “Education is the way to success. It is your ticket to life. It’s for you to continue that journey for the people who couldn’t do it before.”
She recognizes the opportunity she has being part of the first generation that hasn’t attended residential school. Thinking about the intergenerational impacts, she wants to be a cycle breaker and an advocate.
“It's not easy at all, but I still try and just take it one day at a time.”
If she could give her younger self advice, it would be to not push herself to go to school when she was ready. She had to work hard to pay back her student loans and she learned a lot of life lessons in the process. “I'm happy that I learned to stand up for myself and I learned to use my voice. I know when to say yes and no and to know when I'm ready. It's hard being a student, you need to be prepared for everything,” she expresses.
One of the things she had to be prepared for was taking care of herself. She found that hard due to the stigma of mental health issues and the lack of resources in the Northwest Territories. Tinqui knows how important mental wellness is and as a student, that means not cramming to finish things and stretching out school work so it isn’t a big rush before the due date.
“Everybody needs somebody to talk to and to lean on.”
She also learned that you don’t have to do it alone, and to reach out for help when she needs it. Talking to a therapist or friends has been helpful for decompressing and so has taken time off. Reading week is a time she found particularly important for creating balance, relaxing and unwinding from school stress. She’s glad to be going into her fourth year and feels happy and blessed to be where she is.
Her advice to youth thinking about moving away for work or school is supportive. “It's gonna be hard to move away from your family, your community, your friends, but the life that you build away from them is the foundation of starting as a new person.. Aim for the stars and aim even higher than that. Just keep on going, because education opens doors for you,” she shares. With all the new things they can learn and the people they will meet, Tinqui presents education as a way to grow and become your own person, something she’s doing herself, though she’s proud of where she comes from.
As a Dene woman from Treaty 11, coming from the bloodline of Chiefs and Grand Chiefs, from Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories, she has a strong sense of what she wants to do. She’s very strong and doesn’t give up, keeping on trying and taking it one day at a time. It’s hard, but she knows it’s going to be worth it in the end.
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.