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and she made sure I also finished my high school.” Kara stops for a moment; looking back over a happy time, her eyes well up. She quickly dabs themaway and continues. “My aunt is my role model. She has a


Masters of Education degree and has worked with the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government. She did this while raising her son. He is significantly mentally disabled. She is so patient and kind with him. While she studied, my grandparents helped take care of her son. “Maybe for her this was a way of


returning that support. She always made time for chats and we had a lot of good ones. Aunt Karen is so approachable so I could talk with her about anything. She challenged me and pushed me to go as far as I could go and beyond. I looked at her life, with all the demands at home and work, and knew it was possible. Maybe I wasn’t able to express it then but the seed was sown with her for sure.” I am beginning to put some pieces


together in my quest to understand the source of this young woman’s strength. It is about immediate and extended family. The Aboriginal people have a rich history of the nurturing family. The responsibility for raising a child extends beyond the father,mother, and siblings to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Even today this is a unique distinction when comparing the First Nations with European-based society. The tribal system is an extension of the family unit exercising control of economic and social issues. The rich aroma of the lilacs greetedKara


as she stepped onto the Miramichi railway platform she had left just two years ago. “I won’t say I was transformed or anything but I did have a better idea who I was when I came home and I knew that family was going to be at the heart of where I would go,” claims Kara. “It was fantastic to be with my little niece who was a baby when I left, and of course my sisters! I spent the next two years doing seasonal work in the woods. It was tough but it helped me know what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. And by this time I had my daughter, Elsa. It wasn’t just about me now. In 2004, we moved to PEI where I enrolled in the Tourism and Travel Management program at Holland College. I learned a lot in the program and in it found what I am good at. I worked hard but all the time felt I wasn’t giving Elsa the time and attention she


Bread ‘ n Molasses September/October 2010 • 11


needed. I didn’t go back for the second year. But I didn’t retreat to the 'make work' projects either. I worked at the Northern Star Lodge. I loved it. Meeting new people and helping them discover the Aboriginal culture was where I felt most at home.” But the lodge ran into funding problems


and was closed. “That was a disappointment for sure but I kept replaying inmymind themessages of encouragement from my parents, sisters and my aunt Karen. In 2009, I started the Business Administration, Sales and Marketing at NBCC-Miramichi. I’m using the credits fromHolland College and the experience at the Lodge. The instructors have encouraged me to do this and it makes the program real for me. I am doing very well and have my sights set on post-diploma studies in Business


Certificate—Aboriginal


development. I am going to do this for me and my daughter,” she says with her dark eyes blazing.


It’s near the end of the day at the college.


The hallways are filled with animated conversations about plans for the evening. I spot my three “lunch mates” busily engaged in completing a project. They are going to dowell in theworkworld.Despite their own reservations they will mine the independence they have been given by their parents and which is reinforced by their European cultures. They are contrasted in my mind with this wonderful quietly determinedAboriginal lady,who celebrates her challenges and successes firmly rooted in the knowledge she is a part of a large supportive family.


Administration Economic


Doug Dolan is a life long resident of Miramichi. He has been a member of several community agencies and is employed at the NBCC Miramichi campus as an academic manager.


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