Those who came before Niihtaapookaa, Tatiana Weasel Moccasin inspired her to attend the University of Lethbridge. She has seen so many of her relatives and peers graduate from this institution — including her grandparents, who are both residential school survivors. Their story, in particular, moves Tatiana to continue intergenerational healing while learning about Indigenous culture and traditions to become a Blackfoot/English teacher when she graduates.
There are so many powerful Nitsitapi women and men who have graduated from this University, making me feel proud to be a Nitsitapi woman.
Did you know what you wanted to study before you came to ULethbridge? Has your academic plan changed since you began your studies?
My academic journey has been complicated, and it took me a few years to figure out what I was passionate about academically. I have always been passionate about learning about my culture and enjoyed teaching orally, and I think those experiences helped me figure out what I wanted to study. My academic plan has not changed since I began my studies; I am still very passionate about Indigenous culture and traditions. I also like writing and reading interesting books that create discussions, and I hope never to lose this trait.
Please tell us a bit about your experiential or work-integrated learning at ULethbridge.
This past summer, I worked as a research assistant for Michelle Hogue and Ira Provost. I got this job after completing the Indigenous Student Success Cohort (ISSC), a fantastic opportunity that I hold close to my heart. My three biggest takeaways from participating in this program would have to be re-connection, including Blackfoot land, culture, and traditions. This process involved learning about various plants, sacred areas, animals, rocks, and ceremonies that pertain to the Blackfoot lifestyle in the Castle Park Area. After learning about these different things, our goal was to determine how to protect those elements from various things like coal mining, pollution, construction, etc. I loved how that experience made me feel more proud to be Nitsitapi, and it also made me feel brave to continue my studies.
What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience so far?
My most memorable experience was making the Dean's honour roll list in 2021-2022. I felt so proud because I had either failed or dropped out of post-secondary in my previous years, so that was a great moment for me. It reminded me to continue investing time into myself and my education no matter what.
How have your professors impacted your education? Have any professors changed how you view the world or what you want to study?
Dr. Michelle Hogue truly inspired me to continue my education journey. I loved the way she taught her classes because they involved discussions that involved bridging cultures. Her support throughout the ISSC program duration was incredible and inspires me to become a professor one day.
Tatiana truly epitomizes what it means to bridge cultures through two-eyed seeing in ways that lead to both-ways knowing. – Dr. Michelle Hogue, Indigenous Student Success Cohort, nominated Tatiana as a Shining Student.
Is there someone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?
There are honestly so many people that I want to acknowledge, but I don't think there is enough room. One person in particular who has been amazing is my mother. She has been a great support system for me because whenever I start to doubt myself, she's always there to help guide me in the right direction. Her hard work and independence inspire me to want to do the same.
Have you received any scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.
Last year I received numerous scholarships, and I want to thank the organizations such as the Master Card Foundation, Inspire, Piikani youth and Ed. This semester I also received Zella Dague Forsyth Memorial Award. I am honestly grateful for these scholarships because they have helped me focus on my studies without any financial stress and have given me the confidence to continue studying.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far at ULethbridge?
It is never too late to return to post-secondary education.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
I hope to graduate successfully from the University as a Blackfoot/English teacher.
What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?
Don't procrastinate because time management is definitely a must in University. The Student Success Centre is a great place that can help you with that. Also, create healthy habits and surround yourself with people who are healthy for you and your mental health.
Top things to do in or around Lethbridge:
I like going to the movies with friends and family and attending powwows, and before returning to university, I enjoyed attending rallies that advocate for Indigenous rights.
Favourite class: Bridging cultures, Quest for Success, Liberal Education and Sociology
Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: The Gym
Favourite place to study: Library (Quiet Areas), and my secret study spot
About Shining Students
Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.
Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Niihtaapookaa, Tatiana!