Stefanie Recollet described her participation in the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program at the Coady International Institute as “an incredible journey.”
“I am amazed at the calibre of graduates and I am proud that I am going to be part of it,” an Anishnaabe, of the Wahnapitae First Nation in northern Ontario, said.
A couple days later [Aug. 25], Recollet was one of 13 graduates, from the IWCL program, who crossed the Schwartz School of Business Auditorium stage.
“I came to Coady to make connections with other strong Indigenous women and gather perspectives from other Nations across Turtle Island,” Recollet said, when asked about her desire to study in the Coady program.
“I hope to bring to my community the combined knowledge of all the extraordinary women I met along this journey.”
She noted she had already been “dabbling in changes in a community with a lot of challenges.”
Describing the Coady staff and instructors as “world renowned,” Recollet talked about how she has “developed skills to affect change.”
Melissa Hotain, Dakota, of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in southern Manitoba, a Class of 2017 member, echoed that praise of IWCL.
“I just want to thank Coady for this great opportunity,” she said.
Hotain said she learned about the program from co-workers.
“They came back with rave reviews,” she added.
Although the timing didn’t work, initially, Hotain noted the IWCL idea remained “in the back of my mind.”
This year, she noted, she did a “little more digging” about the program.
“The timing was perfect to be chosen to attend,” Hotain said.
“I hope to apply new skills and knowledge gained from my mentor, fellow cohorts and instructors.”
The pair also reflected on what they have learned from their classmates.
“It has been humbling to see such successful women,” Recollet said.
Hotain added she has “learned a lot from each of them.”
Both described the group as a “sisterhood.”
“We bonded quite well,” Hotain said, noting she was one of the older participants.
Recollet added “you really get to know each other.”
“Even though we are dispersed, we share similar histories and struggles. We have shared goals,” she said.
IWCL participants start the program in April, beginning with three weeks of study at Coady.
From there, the participants embarked on a three-month placement before returning to Coady for a two-week or so wrap-up, which culminates with graduation day.
As part of the IWCL certificate program, graduates have to complete major projects related to their placements.
“It involves land-based learning for youth,” Recollet said of her initiative.
She noted the focus is on ages 12 to 15, which are “often left out of programming.”
“There is a gap,” Recollet added.
Participants, she explained, take a guided canoe journey “along an ancestral route.”
On that journey, they work with medicinal plants, traditional food and bush crafts.
“It is about bringing them back to their roots,” Recollet said, adding the focus on “traditional teachings.”
She noted the journey also “focuses heavily” on environmental stewardship.
Hotain talked about the two-day workshops in her community that bring together young woman with elders – ‘aunties’ and ‘grandmas’ – who lead the sessions.
“It is about delivering life lessons,” she said.
In order to create a more intimate setting, Hotain noted, each workshop has only 10 young women.
“Celebrate and hold each other up,” she said, in talking about the goals.