Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre

[Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre]
[Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre]

Meet Brittany

Why I self-identify…

"I self-identify as Mohawk because it is the truth. Until applying to, and attending University, I was never asked to self-identify, and I didn’t know the importance of self-identifying anyway. I always knew that my mom was Mohawk, from the Brant family, having her roots in Tyendinaga, and that my dad’s ancestry was primarily Scottish, along with other European heritages. I grew up off-reserve, not exposed to many cultural traditions, except for the occasional pow wow. However, I never held a negative sense of my cultural identity, it just laid dormant, temporarily inactive. Despite the warm welcome and encouragement from Four Directions, coming to Queen’s as a blonde-haired blue-eyed Indigenous student who was not connected to culture, I was hesitant to access any of the services they offered. It was not until I felt that I could give-back to the centre in some way, that I was able to make it across campus to Four Directions in the second semester of my First Year as an Undergrad. An opportunity to volunteer with the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program, developed in efforts to provide accessible mentorship and tutoring to local Aboriginal learners in high school, is what brought me to the centre.

Though I acted as a mentor and tutor to these students, I learned just as much from them, as they did from me. Through this volunteer opportunity at Four Directions I found out that I shouldn’t be ashamed of my lack of knowledge and mixed ancestry. Everyone starts somewhere, and we are all still learning. Being of mixed ancestry does not mean you must be any less connected to your culture. Since being at Queen’s I have learned why I didn’t grow up knowing about the cultural traditions that come along with my Mohawk ancestry. I am a product of colonialism, and I wear it on my face every day, as we all do in some way or another. But, I self-identify because it is the truth, I am proud of where I came from, and I want to use it as an agent of positive social change. The more we self-identify regardless of how much we know, or what we look like, the more aware our society becomes of what an Indigenous cultural identity is today. It is important to explore and honour the cultural traditions, and languages of our Indigenous ancestors, just as we do when we celebrate traditions like Christmas, and use the English or French language. I self-identify to spread the presence of Indigenous peoples, and their knowledge bases. I self-identify to lead by example, and to create a safe-space for those who may not be quite ready to self-identify. I self-identify to educate others, and to break stereotypes. I self-identify in efforts to help restore the cultural identity taken from generations of Indigenous peoples before me."

- Brittany 

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