Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Oki, my name is Santanita Oka and my Blackfoot name is Siipoimoststa (Victory at Night). I am a member of the Kainai First Nation, also known as the Blood Reserve. I come from the Mamio'yiksi (Fish Eaters) Clan. I was raised by my grandmother during my younger years.

When I was a teenager, I moved to Cardston to live with my parents and I attended Cardston Jr and Sr High school. I then attended Red Crow Community College where I upgraded for 2 years and received my Grade 12 diploma. From there, I enrolled into the First Nations Transition Program (now the Indigenous Student Success Cohort) at ULethbridge.

I did not know exactly what program I wanted to get into, however, I did know that I wanted to return to my community after I completed my degree and work in the health field. I eventually decided to pursue public health within the Health Sciences program. I was one of first Indigenous women from the Blood Reserve to graduate from this program.

After graduation I worked for my community for three years. I enrolled into a graduate program at the University of Calgary and the Werklund School of Education where I completed my Masters of Education in 2020.

How long have you been at ULethbridge and what do you do here?

I have been employed with ULethbridge since November 1, 2022 as the Indigenous Mental Health Outreach Worker. As the Indigenous Mental Health Outreach Worker, I increase awareness of the factors that contribute to student’s well being, from an Indigenous perspective.

Since my employment, I have been engaging with students in building positive relationships. I plan to provide workshops, presentations, web publications and educational resources to inform students of mental health concerns and well being.

My knowledge of the Blackfoot practices, language, culture and spirituality, including my experience working within my own First Nation community and Aawaahskataiksi (knowledge holders/Elders), I plan on Iihpkim mootspi (pass on the teachings one has received) to the students, as our knowledge is best gained through experience and through our practices.

What’s the best part of your job?

As part of my Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot people) identity and ontological responsibility, I want to share what I have learned through my own experiences as a past student at ULethbridge and my work experience within my community, as well as my awareness to my culture to this role in helping students become successful throughout their educational experience.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I have three wonderful children and a significant other whom I devote most of my time to.

Aside from my children, I enjoy baking and decorating birthday, wedding, anniversary and special occasion cakes–the orders never seem to cease! I especially enjoy creating unique Indigenous designs on the cakes. I created and baked the cake that was served at the grand opening of the Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre.