John Little Bear, Piitaa’aohkamii, chose ULethbridge because of the Aboriginal Health program and how close his home is to campus, located on traditional Blackfoot Confederacy territory. In his program, which blends Indigenous Ways of Knowing with Western health concepts, he's learned ways to support his community through a connection to his culture. The small campus helped him form a support system as he built relationships with professors and peers, and John's liberal education courses further broadened his knowledge and perspectives.
How did you ultimately decide to join the Aboriginal Health program?
"I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take after upgrading at Red Crow College, but I knew I wanted to help and give back to my community. After research, I found the Aboriginal Health program. I love that the program has a ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’ approach, it teaches and guides students with both Western science and our First Nations Ways of Knowing. As a member of the First Nations, I’ve lived the experience of the social inequities and past historical traumas that still affecting the overall health of Indigenous people in Canada. There are so many issues within our communities and they are ever-changing. I’d like to be able to help. I’ve noticed a lack of male presence within the Aboriginal health field, I would like to reduce the stigma around seeking help in these areas."
What has helped inspire you most during your time at ULethbridge?
"I've been affected personally with so much loss since my academic journey started. Physical health, mental health or addictions, have played major roles in these losses. I know I’m not the only one who has gone through this in my personal life or in my community. Students who have already completed the Aboriginal Health program inspire me on my academic journey. As well as the support I’ve received from faculty, friends and family, I've also benefited from the wisdom of Elders. It’s so important to know that you’re not alone and that there are student support structures and people willing to help when it’s needed."
The knowledge I gained at ULethbridge is vital to overcome the challenges facing Indigenous health. One of the unique benefits I most appreciate about the Aboriginal Health program is the inclusion of our Traditional Knowledge Keepers and Elders. To listen to them in a classroom setting helped me as a person and as a future health advocate, and the ongoing support and guidance from the Elders has helped me be mindful of myself and my community.
Have you earned any scholarships or taken part in experiential learning opportunities at ULethbridge?
"Yes! I’ve received a few scholarships during my academic journey: the Aboriginal Health award (a few times), Indspire scholarships, the Jason Lang Memorial Award, as well as a few others. I'm so thankful to donors for helping me along my journey and making it possible for me to succeed. I also did a term as a recruitment and marketing co-op student with ULethbridge, where I earned both a paycheque and course credit. The hands-on work in my experiential learning opportunities blended with the knowledge I’ve gained from my program have been amazing."