Skip to main content
SFU Alumni

Tracy smiling
I will continue to encourage students out there to dream and that its okay to be scared but don’t’ let that fear hold you back.


Secwepemc nation 


Indigenous Perspectives Teaching Education Module at SFU

What were some of the challenges you faced growing up?

Growing up I was never in one place for too long and I lived with my mother and grandmother as well as other family members and foster care. I was always worried about whether or not I would be removed from my mother’s care and looking back I think that I had every reason to be. My mother had gone to Residential School for ten years and as a result she had turned to alcoholism to relieve her pain. I know that her inability to parent was how a lot of inter-generational children of the Survivors had grown up and we all suffered a lot of abuse in many different ways. I had never felt like I fit in and endured a lot of racism within the public school system and as a result I had dropped out in grade 8. My home life had a lot to with this as well and I had been removed from my mother’s care many times and placed with family member s or in foster care. This was very difficult for me as I always felt like even though my life was so drastically unstable and growing up where alcoholism was normal I just wanted to be with my mother no matter what. I had to take care of my siblings and protect them as best I could from any harm and we dealt with a lot of abusive people which has a huge effect on me today as I find it very difficult to trust men. I can say that my childhood has shaped who I am today and that I have dealt with many hardships but I always knew that I had to rely on myself to survive.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was young I knew I wanted to be a mother and didn’t really set any future goals for myself and I had always thought that being a stay at home mom was it for me. My mother didn’t work or drive and so I thought that doing anything more was not possible so I learned to limit myself and my ability to dream big.

When did you start thinking about attending post-secondary?

I was 24 years old when my husband had decided that we were going to move to Vancouver so he could go to school and pursue his career in Criminology. At the time I thought okay this is how it is going to work I am going to take care of our two children while he goes to school. My son was 3 and my daughter was 8 and I was having this struggle with myself as to who I wanted to be and realizing that my future was all up to me.

What were some of the reasons you decided to further your education?

I had decided to go to school because my husband at the time was always pushing me to do something with my life and that I was capable of so much more. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to amount to anything but decided to try out a 6 month Administration Course at the Native Education Centre. I thought that this would be sufficient enough for me and working behind a desk answering phones was going to have to do. As I had begun my educational journey I had started to realize that I did enjoy learning and I discovered another world out there where I could be successful. As I had completed this program I had spoken to my teacher and told her how I had an interest in learning about the History of First Nations people and that I wasn’t ready to walk out of the doors and enter the work field. I was then pointed in the direction of a First Nations Studies certificate at the Institute of Indigenous Government so this is where I continued on.

Write a Brief Timeline of Your Schooling Experience.

I had completed my First Nations Studies Certificate and then transferred to Simon Fraser University in Kamloops where I had begun my Bachelor of Arts Degree. I had discovered that they had offered Secwepemc Language classes and this is where a lot of my passion had come through. Once I completed my Degree with a joint major in First Nation Studies and Linguistics I had much encouragement by my Instructors to pursue teaching. I had completed all requirements towards the PDP- Professional Development Program towards becoming a certified teacher but the program was no longer offered in Kamloops. So I had taken some time off before taking a job teaching the Secwepemc Language within the secondary schools. This is where I stayed for 3.5 years and then I knew it was time to take the leap into the PDP program and move to Burnaby and attend SFU.

Share Your Experience Finding Funding.

I had heard about the Residential School Education Funds being distributed to all of the Survivors and because my mother had attended she was eligible. I had applied to SFU PDP and was accepted which was not an easy feat but I persevered and decided that I was going no matter what. I had moved to Burnaby with 3 of my 5 children and had enough to pay for my first month’s rent and paid my first semester tuition and this was all I could ask for to start. I had been referred to a organization that funds women pursuing an Education with financial need so I applied and although I had only received a small living allowance this was going to have to suffice.

Share a Time When You Wanted to Quit.

Here I am in my first semester and I am struggling right from the get go I have no intention of letting anything get in my way. Even my grandmother being in the hospital and knowing I was going away to school she told me “I wish you good luck”, I didn’t know if this was going to be the last time we spoke but I knew that I was going to be the best I could be. My financial position should have stopped me from continuing on but I have made up my mind that I will not give up so therefore I am applying for bursaries and reaching out for help within a variety of native organizations. My classmates have helped me out in ways I could never even fathom.

Share Your Proudest Moment.

My proudest moment is my daughter telling me she has applied to do her Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree and this is what I had envisioned for my children. That they are in charge of their futures and they can achieve anything they want to in their life. She is 21 and has a daughter who is now 3 and I couldn’t be more proud of her. And she told me “I’m proud of you mom”. I couldn’t ask for anything more. 

Where are you currently in respect to your education?

I am currently doing my short practicum at a local secondary school and am learning tonnes and receiving a lot of good feedback and will continue to do my best.

What did you do after you graduated your first degree?

I will return to Kamloops to teach within the Secondary schools and hopefully inspire youth who might not have anyone in their corner and I understand what that feels like.

What has been your most important lesson returning to school?

Don’t let anything stand in your way and always try your best and ask for help when you need it. Be your own advocate is what my friend has been telling me and she is my inspiration as well as my instructors who continually tell me I’m doing a great job.

What advice do you have to offer other Indigenous students?  

Where there’s a will there’s a way!

What are your goals for the future?

I will continue to encourage students out there to dream and that its okay to be scared but don’t’ let that fear hold you back.

SFU Alumni
visibility  181
Aug 18, 2015

You Might Like These... Indigenous SFU Community Stories, Professional Development, Life Experience, Personal Development, Career Exploration

Mike, author
Indigenous Stories: Mike, SFU Alumni

"I have no solid plans for the future and I love it...I know that every experience that I have had, every failed plan, was really an excellent mistake that gave me the skills I need to handle any situation that gets thrown my way in the future."  Read Mike's story of career exploration, and how to handle constant change.

william lindsay smiling
William Lindsay on Persistance

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence”. Through my life’s experience I can certainly attest to the truthfulness of these words.I hope lessons for others can be found in them. Hence, “Press On” friends and make your own dreams a reality! Read more about William Lindsay's journey and how they overcame life challenges. 

rudy smiling
Rudy Riemer/Yumk | SFU Department of First Nations Studies and Archaeology

"I grew up in Squamish BC, learning from elders and knowledgeable community members about Squamish Nation culture.  Many of my fondest memories are walking to downtown with my grandpa, sitting at my grand uncles kitchen table and going up the river to fish. During these formative years I was always careful to listen to what they had to say." 

You Might Like These... Indigenous SFU Community Stories

Temple during grad
Q & A with Princess Temple

Mary Temple will be continuing her degree at SFU in the fall. Read about her experiences growing up in northern BC and where her education has taken her thus far.

SFu summer camp
Summer Camp Prepares Students for University

Anika Robertson says the SFU Aboriginal camp exceeded her expectations and inspired her to aim for university.

Snapshot of the feast
Honouring Feast at SFU

This year’s First Nations, Inuit, Metis Graduate Honouring Feast, that took place at the Diamond Alumni Centre on June 12, 2013 was a beautiful gathering that was quite impactful for me.