As a single mom, providing her young daughter with a bright future motivated Sarah Rain to work towards her degree, while also navigating the challenges of work, life, and parenthood. This fall, Sarah will celebrate achieving her goals as she joins Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) class of 2022 with her bachelor of arts (BA) in Indigenous Studies. As a testament to Sarah’s dedication and her talents, she has already launched a promising new career. Just weeks after attending her final class at SFU, Sarah has started a new job with the Native Women's Association of Canada, where she will help Indigenous communities across the country create disaster response plans. “Education is so powerful,” says Sarah. “I am so happy that I finished my degree, and I now have a career where I can support myself and my daughter.”
As an Indigenous student with a strong desire to understand her culture and history, Sarah’s decision to major in Indigenous Studies empowered her to learn about issues close to her heart, while also preparing for her future career. For Sarah, pursuing higher education was an essential element of an ongoing and deeply personal journey she had embarked on years before setting foot on campus. “I was part of the Sixties Scoop,” explains Sarah. “Because I was adopted out, I grew up without knowing my family or my people’s history. It’s important to reclaim that knowledge, and it’s important to do it inside and outside of the classroom.” In 2011, Sarah took some of her first steps toward her long-term goal of becoming a university graduate. “I have a long history with SFU,” explains Sarah. “Before I became an Indigenous Studies student, I participated in what is now known as the Indigenous University Preparation Pathway (IUPP), which allowed me to upgrade and finish my high school.”
After paving the way to attend university when the time was right, Sarah decided to first move to Saskatchewan for several years to focus on finding her family and to take steps toward becoming part of her community. “I am Anishinaabe kwe from Zagime Anishinabek,” says Sarah. “I love my community. I am so proud that my relative from Saskatchewan will be coming out west to start her degree in Indigenous Studies. I cannot wait to show her the campus.”
In 2017, after returning to British Columbia, Sarah began her undergraduate studies at SFU while also raising her daughter, who was two years old at the time. As an Indigenous Studies major, Sarah enjoyed diving into a wide variety of subjects, from printmaking to Ethnobotany. “As a student, you learn about Indigenous ways of being and knowing, and there is so much beauty in applying that in your life,” says Sarah. While learning about global Indigenous cultures and perspectives, Sarah also found meaningful opportunities to apply what she was learning to her own life, “Sharing my Sixties Scoop story as an Indigenous testimonial was an actual life-changing moment for me. It was amazing to find healing in the classroom.”
Reflecting on her time at SFU, Sarah wants to encourage other Indigenous students to come to class with pride and strength in who they are, but at the same time, to know that help is available, “I found a real sense of community in Indigenous Studies. There are some great community supports available for students on campus as well, such as the Indigenous Student Centre.”
Sarah is taking pride in her achievements and looking forward to the next chapter in her life. Several of Sarah’s friends and family from Saskatchewan plan to make the trip to Burnaby Mountain to celebrate the occasion with her. As she embarks on her new career, Sarah is excited to be taking an active role in advocating for greater safety and inclusion for Indigenous people in Canada. “The knowledge Indigenous people hold is powerful, as a student, you will learn so much, even about yourself. It raises your level of consciousness,” says Sarah. “What you learn in Indigenous Studies can open doors, and we need Indigenous peoples embedded in all systems to make a change.”
This story was originally published on the SFU Indigenous Studies website on Oct. 4, 2022.