Priscilla Canadien

Lessons On The Land: Following Footsteps in the Snow to Higher Education

“Watching my dad and my mom harvest from the natural resources around our community, that's what brought me to enter the field of the Natural Resources,” Priscilla Canadien shares. She has been the resource manager for Deh Gah Gotie First Nations in Fort Providence in the Northwest Territories for the past fifteen years. She works where she grew up, contributing to her community and the harvesters who live there through her work. 

Before she landed the job, she took the environment and natural resource technology program at Aurora College. Her love and passion for being on the land came from living off the land year round with her parents. After she graduated from high school, she did some upgrading to help her with the technical reports needed in her program because she felt like secondary school didn’t adequately prepare her for that aspect of the work. 

As part of the program, she participated in a series of courses and two camps. One camp was designed so students would learn about living on the land in the Arctic and survival skills above the treeline, something she found fascinating. It included learning how to harvest Arctic wildlife, along with other skills appropriate for being on the land safely in the tundra. The other camp she participated in focused on the technical skills needed for the program, like scientific data analysis and how to use technology that’s relevant to her field and her day to day responsibilities as she goes about her work as a natural resource manager. 

She’s now doing a job she loves with the lessons she learned at school and from her parents. Canadien followed their footsteps in the snow to higher education. That’s why she encourages Indigenous youth thinking about leaving their home communities to get educated to prepare for a job like hers or something else that inspires them to go for it and follow their dreams. 

“I would say if you have that passion for being on land, if you want an education, you want a diploma or you really want a good life, I would really encourage you just to leave your community and look for the support and the financial resources to get from point A to point B,” she advises. She knows firsthand the path through education isn’t always easy.

Illustration by Shaikara David

Going to school as a parent of two was a challenge when she thinks about the childcare needs that come with pursuing higher education. She was glad her husband was there with her for the late nights and time she had to spend studying, sharing in the care of their children. To manage her mental health, Canadien focuses on good quality sleep and finding balance in her routine. Balancing her budget as a student was another challenge to tackle. 

Getting her diploma and educating herself was also a financial challenge, but she got through it because she budgeted and got help from friends and family to meet their needs. Canadien didn’t realize how many options were available for student financial assistance until her cousin helped her apply for scholarships and other funding sources to help her make ends meet while she was studying. 

She pays that forward by helping students with forms and writing letters so they can access the financial resources they need to further their education. Canadien knows how hard that can be to try to organize when you have to do it alone and you don’t know how or even what’s possible, and once you’ve been through it yourself, you know better how to help others. 

Now that she has finished her schooling and has this job that she enjoys so much, she’s inspired to keep going knowing how important the work is. She shows up to work every day because she knows people are counting on her to answer questions about harvesting or traditional land use and to help them with filling in applications and paperwork. Being there for the harvesters and community brings her joy.

Inspired by the example set by her parents, and with the skills she learned from her cousin about student financial assistance, Canadien helps her community make the most of the resources they have, on the land and through student aid.​​ Priscilla Canadien learned to live on the land, the technical skills to support others in doing so and gives back to the harvesters and aspiring students in Fort Providence where she grew up. It’s like the life cycle of the plants and animals she studied at school, everything and everyone are connected and help each other grow. 

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
    Northwest Territories
  • Date
    March 13, 2023
  • PSI
    No items found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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