I wanted to get a degree in a program that helped me preserve the Blackfoot culture, so future generations like my children can practice their cultural heritage.
Participating in research as an undergraduate student allowed Alyssa No Runner (Ahkoiinnimakii) (BSc '22) to learn about ways to educate the academic and non-indigenous community on Indigenous culture. She hopes to continue her education in a master's program that focuses on developing an Indigenous terminology that can be accessible to Blackfoot students, Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students alike. Alyssa graduates this spring with a Bachelor of Science in archaeology and geography.
Please tell us a bit about your experiential or work-integrated learning. What were your biggest takeaways from participating?
I participated in a few Independent studies; the current one was ARKY 3990, titled "Defining the Sacred" with Dr. Kevin McGeough. The research involved going over past publications about how religious practices were viewed and interpreted in the past. I enjoyed this research because it allowed me to gain an understanding and knowledge of how past scholars defined what is sacred. I gained an understanding by seeing how these interpretations work and don't work, for the most part, when it comes to defining what is sacred to the Blackfoot people. My goal in my career is to address and educate on the misinterpretation of Indigenous cultures in Canada. So, doing an Independent study like this allowed me to gain this knowledge and build on my research skills for the future. I will be able to take what I learned from this independent study and educate people more on this topic.
The three biggest takeaways from participating in an independent study were being able to research a topic I want to learn more about. The second was addressing misinterpretations from a Blackfoot perspective and as an archaeology student. The third takeaway was learning through my research on ways that I can educate the academic and non-indigenous community on Indigenous culture as I continue my career.
What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?
My most memorable experience was participating in the archaeological field school at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in the summer of 2021. This experience allowed me to connect with my heritage as a Blackfoot person and made me proud to come from people who knew the landscape and respected the natural world.
What is the most important lesson you learned during your time at uLethbridge?
The most important lesson I learned at ULethbridge was believing in myself to finish my education. I learned that it is possible to go to school with two young children because my education benefits them. I hope they will be proud of me when they get older, knowing that it is possible to continue your education no matter what hardships you may face. Anything is possible if you are passionate about what you want to do.
Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?
My family and cultural heritage are the most significant influence on my ULethbridge experience. I wanted to get a degree in a program that helped me preserve the Blackfoot culture, so future generations like my children can practice their cultural heritage. Also, my partner Cody and my family were there every step of the way as I completed my education, whether that was encouragement or talking through ideas of what it means to be a Blackfoot person today.
Did you receive scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.
I received a few scholarships during my academic journey, which helped me pay for extra expenses and took the worry off me in getting a part-time job. As a parent of two young children, it is hard to get a part-time job, so the extra money helped me pay bills and freed up my time to focus on my studies.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
I hope to get into a master's program that focuses on developing an Indigenous terminology that can be accessible to Blackfoot students, Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students alike. I hope that this Indigenous terminology can help address issues in interpretations from the past so that Indigenous cultures today can be understood and explain their culture using their own terminology. Whatever I do in my career, I know it will focus on preserving Indigenous cultures while building positive relationships with academic and non-Indigenous communities so that we can all learn and appreciate Indigenous culture.
What advice would you give to those about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?
The advice I would give students about starting their educational journey is to take time for themselves when they feel like they can't. I know it can be stressful at times, but once you finish a project, assignment, or whatever, you are one more step closer to achieving your goals. Another important thing is to ask for help from the professors, other students, or student services with any issues you may face because everyone wants you to succeed at the end of the day.
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