Theresa Warbus is a force in her work, and had quite the journey getting there. Warbus is from the Sto:lo Nation in Chilliwack, B.C., and currently lives in her community Skowkale.
She does many things, including running a media company called Salish Legends Media with her husband, working with her community as a media coordinator with the Sto:lo Hopewell Association, and is a musician under the name Keliya, who happens to be in the process of putting out her first full album this year.
Warbus has been a musician for close to 15 years, and throughout them has been in a group and released mixtapes, also collaborating with Vancouver based artists and do shows.
With Salish Legends Media, Warbus had decided her main career had to serve an artistic purpose for her. So she entered into a program called Lens of Empowerment at the University of Fraser Valley.
“It just really felt like as soon as I picked up the camera and started creating stories about our people, it was so empowering,” said Warbus.
“That’s when I decided that I really wanted to have a main career that was more closely tied in with the arts, because I’d always done service work with young people.”
From then, her goal was to build something from the ground up and knew it would be possible to create their own stories and work on their own films if they got the training to do so.
So she did. It took them to Vancouver to University of British Columbia where she found her passion for writing and directing while her husband found his for photography and working the camera.
Warbus says the media company is a way to brand their services as a team and be able to offer a full spectrum of services to communities and anyone who needs it.
“Producers, writers, people who have vision, people, artists who want to do music videos. They can hire our company, Salish Legends Media. We pump out a product to their liking, and then we charge that way,” said Warbus.
When it came to her education path, she says it was “a mess” and says if she were to tally how many years she spent in university it was close to “10 years of training in different veins.”
She says part of it was changing her mind and always reaching for more tools wanting to fill her basket as much as possible.
Warbus says she originally went to school for general studies then eventually took on English major focus hoping to get into law. She then went to a theatre school, was in audio engineering for a time, then went to UBC where she focused on film production and has been doing that ever since.
“So six years later, here we are. I have my bachelor’s and my undergraduate in the fine arts. And I’m pursuing a master’s in film production right now. So I hope to be done with that next year,” said Warbus.
Starting her company and doing all this wasn’t an easy process, with different bumps along the way.
She says her education was a spot where she really struggled. She was very young when she moved away and decided to live in Alberta and go to school but was also dealing with a lot of issues she had about herself, including her identity, upbringing and confidence.
“When I moved away, I didn’t realize that running away was not going to solve any of the problems I was experiencing here,” said Warbus.
She started having substance abuse issues with alcohol and eventually had a breakdown and had to move back home to live with her parents.
Warbus was very depressed and felt she had ruined her chances of education, but at that time she became engaged in her culture and it forced her to look at herself and what her contributions were to her community.
She said she was resentful at the time, but it was what grounded her. She eventually decided to move to Vancouver and did a program related to youth and theatre, and at that time was when she started her music.
“The struggle was not so hard, but it was always because, my culture, I had that to fall back into. I could be out in the city, but I had to return home to engage in our ceremonies,” said Warbus.
She also says she had to deal with a toxic relationship that “ate a big chunk” of her 20’s that almost destroyed her because she wasn’t focusing on anything but the relationship.
“Getting out of that situation was another thing that I had to overcome before I could really feel like I had a true sense of who I wasn’t. That was in my late twenties,” said Warbus.
Now, Warbus has found that sense of who she is and if there were any advice she could give anyone, it would be to figure out what you love to do and what you’re passionate about, then spend time on that and support it.
She also says to not let anyone tell you that you can’t do it and to really just solely focus on your passion.
“I promise you, once you find that thing and you make that a part of your life, somehow, the opportunities and the self-love and the confidence is going to grow on its own.”
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program, with funding provided by the RBC Foundation in support of
RBC Future Launch.