A journey towards finding home and community, and reconnecting with her roots, has been a guiding force in the life of Dr. Yvonne Poitras-Pratt, PhD. Her parents were born in Fishing Lake Metis Settlement in Alberta in the 1950’s and they travelled across northern Alberta and British Columbia, eventually landing her and her childhood family in Quesnel, BC.
Poitras-Pratt is a Metis scholar at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. She recalls how she never planned to pursue a career in academia and took positions in oil and gas at the start of her professional journey. She began this career in administration and progressed to futures trading but always longed for the sense of community she felt in education which she recollects as a “safe place of joy.”
As an assistant professor, she sees her students taking the Truth and Reconciliation: Calls to Action to very unexpected locations utilizing art as a channel for this difficult learning. She credits education as the vehicle to influence and infiltrate industry and demonstrate to all how much work the Indigenous community is doing to work towards a hopeful present and future, where a “Nation to Nation” relationship can take form.
In uncovering her own family’s story, she states that “I would not have discovered my family history without going back to school, as my parents always told me to pretend that I was something else other than Metis.” She found a way to take that discomfort and lack of personal identity and turn it into a place of comfort and describes this as a condition of the Metis experience in Canada.
“The Metis have found comfort in complexity, ambiguity, and contradiction, and are front runners in having the rest of society learn from our experience as a culture of rejected peoples.” She believes that those qualities of complexity, ambiguity, and contradiction dominate business and present day society and are not things to be afraid of, rather embraced.
Calgary, as it emerges from recession, is a city reborn and much different than it was before 2015. Poitras-Pratt believes as more Indigenous people move into leadership roles within industry and community, attitudes will slowly shift towards a more inclusive society where there’s space for Indigenous Canada to walk along side with non-Indigenous Canada.
Her hopeful approach has been summed up by what she believes is a common belief held by many Calgarians when looking for economic opportunity. When given the opportunity to go somewhere else and look for a new home during recession, many Calgarians responded with, “We can’t go to another home, because we are home.”