Apoyaakii (Fair-Skinned Woman), Keely Wadsworth wanted her post-secondary education to honour Indigenous history and culture. She knew by enrolling at the University of Lethbridge her dream would become reality. Now four years later, Keely is proud to learn from Indigenous Elders in her classes. Keely follows in the footsteps of her parents, both ULethbridge alumni, and is thrilled to experience the same great opportunities they both had while undergraduate and graduate students.
I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to incorporate Indigenous worldviews. My journey began with the Indigenous Student Success Cohort (ISSC), which helped me narrow down exactly what I wanted to study. Choosing Aboriginal Health has been the best decision of my life.
Meet Keely | Kainaiaakii. Resilient. Advocate.
Program: Bachelor of Health Sciences | Major: Aboriginal Health
Please tell us a bit about your experiential or work-integrated learning at ULethbridge.
I participated in a co-op work-integrated learning program in Summer 2020 with Career Bridge, partnering with the Faculty of Liberal Education, Opokaa'sin Early Intervention Society and Blackfoot Women's Empowerment. I spent the summer as the communication specialist for the organizations. I met a lot of great mentors and received so much valuable and practical knowledge. One of my biggest takeaways was program planning and helping to establish the inaugural Blackfoot Women's Empowerment Conference. I learned the professional side of communication, from designing social media content to learning how to write a professional email. Another takeaway was how to write codes for a website, something I would have never imagined I would learn had I not been in this position. The skills I have learned during my co-op work-integrated learning will stay with me for a lifetime.
What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience so far?
My most memorable experience at ULethbridge was in the spring of 2023, and there was a moment on campus where a peaceful demonstration occurred. The sense of community and allyship amongst the students I felt that day will have a lasting positive impact. The support for Indigenous issues displayed that day makes me believe that reconciliation is possible and is happening at ULethbridge. I am excited to see how the community will grow even stronger with future generations of students.
How have your professors impacted your education? Have any professors changed how you view the world or what you want to study?
Dr. Leroy Little Bear (BASc (BA) ’72, DASc ’04), vice-provost, Iniskim Indigenous Relations, has set the foundation for Indigenous students at ULethbridge and is an inspiration to all Indigenous students. I've had the privilege of attending of Dr. Little Bear's lectures and what I've gained from his teachings are self-determination, Indigenous rights and Indigenous ideologies. Thank you, Dr. Little Bear, for being a strong advocate for supporting Indigenous worldviews in education.
Through Dr. Janice Victor's classes I had the opportunity to incorporate Indigenous worldviews in my education. My last class with her was focused on Indigenous/Metis Elder knowledge on traditional Indigenous health concepts. While in this class, I was in a space of gratitude for the opportunity to sit and learn from Elders. I am forever grateful to Dr. Victor for the allyship and friendship I have received from her.
Is there anyone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?
When I first began my post-secondary journey, Abby Morning Bull, former ISSC learning facilitator, helped me immensely. During my first year at ULethbridge, Abby was the one person I could always count on to help in anyway, from feeding me to helping me choose which path I wanted to pursue. Abby shared her knowledge and experience to my ISSC cohort and inspired all to reach their goals. Abby, thank you for everything.
Tara Froehlich (BA ’11), Indigenous Learning Facilitator for the Health Sciences faculty, has guided me through my post-secondary journey. There were times I doubted myself and Tara was right there to positively reassure me. Tara has always been my support system while at ULethbrige and without her I would not have been able to navigate University. I thank you for your part in my journey.
Have you received any scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.
I was one of the recipients of the George Frank Russell and Isabella Ann Russell Scholarship and the Kainai Chieftainship Award.
I am honoured to have received both scholarships and want to thank both my donors. Your generous contribution has allowed me to pursue my Bachelor of Health Science at ULethbridge. Both scholarships have paid for student expenses and helped me focus on my ULethbridge journey. Again, thank you for your support and investment in my future.
In your free time, what do you like to do? What are your favourite hobbies?
My free time is mostly spent with my four-year-old son. We spend our evenings playing with toys, reading and learning, and on the weekends, we love to grab popcorn and sit down for the newest cartoon. When I am not with my son, I am sewing. I was taught to sew by my mother and grandmothers, always learning something new along the way. I mostly sew Indigenous ribbon skirts for my family and community. Seeing my work being worn within my community is the most rewarding and accomplishing feeling.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
My hopes for the future are to attend grad school and study to achieve a master's degree in Indigenous Public Health. I don't know where my next journey will bring me, but once I have obtained my master's degree, I will return to use my education for the health of my community, Kainai.
What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?
My advice for future students is to gain as much knowledge as possible—you are at one of the top-rated liberal education institutions in the country! Pursue anything you may be passionate about and be confident and proud to be part of such an outstanding community. Lastly, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Advisors and professors only want to see you achieve great things. They're here to help you in every step of your journey.
For future Indigenous students—be proud of who you are, where you come from and the resiliency you hold. Believe that you will do great things in the future and make your ancestors proud.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your decision to pursue a university degree? Or any obstacles you have faced on the way to, and through post-secondary education?
My experience of university had its obstacles. I am a proud Indigenous mother who at times struggled to maintain balance. There were times I had a sick kid the night before class or had to work on assignments late into the night after my son went to bed, but I still had to get up regardless of how tired I was to get my work done. Looking back, all the obstacles I faced were well worth it because I can show my son what resiliency looks like and how important it is to obtain a post-secondary education.
What are three awesome things about yourself?
- I am a strong advocate for Indigenous issues.
- I am a Blackfoot woman and mother from Kainai.
- I have the skill of sewing.
Favourite place on campus:
The University Hall Atrium. I have so many great memories growing up there with my parents.
Favourite activities to do in southern Alberta:
Walking in the coulees and watching the train go over the High Level Bridge with my son.
Favourite place to study:
The pool observation deck, especially in winter. It's the coziest, warmest place to study.