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Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day: stories of resilience and celebration

SE Health's First Nations, Inuit and Metis Program instructors (Erin Funk and Michelle Monkman) share their stories on National Indigenous Peoples Day 2020.

With pride, SE Health is recognizing National Indigenous Peoples Day on Sunday, June 21, 2020. This day is an opportunity to honour the distinct cultures, languages and beliefs in Indigenous communities, across Canada. In recognition, we are highlighting the stories of two instructors from our First Nations, Inuit and Metis (FNIM) Program.

Michelle and Erin are instructors in our unique FNIM Program – a program that provides virtual education at no cost to health care providers working in First Nation communities.

Michelle Monkman, FNIM Instructor

I was a single mother when I moved eight hours away from home to pursue my nursing degree.

Now, as an instructor in the SE Health First Nations, Inuit & Metis Program, my role is important to assist in building capacity within our Indigenous communities across Canada. We collaborate with communities to determine their priorities for educational needs, empowering the community and the individual students that we work with. I am proud to be a role model for my students.

Many of our students build confidence and the necessary academic skills while taking our programs. They also go on to pursue higher learning. As part of this learning, it’s important that they see Indigenous instructors, like myself, as we are instrumental in nurturing that confidence. I have a deep understanding of the struggles and adversity my students face while trying to pursue higher education. I want my students to know that I believe in them; that they are capable; that I learn just as much from them as they learn from me and that I never forgot about any of my students, even when programs finish. I wonder about them and how they are impacting their communities through the work they are doing. I’m also proud to work with such a supportive team and have excellent mentors and role models.

I am now halfway through my Master of Nursing program, I have four children and I work full time. I am living proof that anything is possible, no matter our background or where we come from.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is a celebration of our Nations. We have not been destroyed by our past; we are resilient and we are rising.

Erin Funk, FNIM Instructor

I am a Swampy Cree Woman and I am proud to be Indigenous.

As a single mother of five children, I was working as a community nurse in First Nation communities; loving the relationships I was building but yearning for something more. The moment I walked into my first class, as an instructor, I knew I was in the right place.

I am passionate, I am driven, I am real – and I share that with everyone. I can relate to them. They feel my passion and it’s contagious. When I am with my students, I make them believe in themselves. I accentuate their strengths. I am flexible and I meet them where they need to be met. I help them become successful, by helping them believe in themselves. This is the most meaningful to me.

I was once the only Indigenous student in a group of non-indigenous students, trying to be the best that I could be. I was a very young mother – completely out of the “norm” constantly being reminded of my struggles. I want my students to know they all carry gifts and are amazing; that they are here for a reason. I am making a difference in my role because I know the struggles and I push them past it.

National Indigenous Peoples Day, is a day to celebrate who we are as a people; to celebrate our resiliency and uniqueness. Indigenous people are taught to love, to respect, to gather, to celebrate, to help, to accept and not to judge. In our culture, the teachings encompass so much love, acceptance for other people, and for the land, the spirit world and our ancestors - it is so beautiful.

For more information about our First Nations, Inuit and Métis programs, please visit