Do not let stereotypes and low expectations be the deciding factor in your life. Choose a career that will challenge you, that you may never be bored, a career that excites you, and that you look forward each day to completing your work.
Sociology professor Dr. Apooyak'ii, Tiffany Prete is a Blood Tribe member who specializes in Indigenous Peoples education. She weaves Blackfoot ways of knowing and western research methods to examine the intergeneration trauma and effects that colonization has created on members of her community.
What is/was your area of study?
I have a background in elementary education specializing in math and science and completed my master of education and doctor of philosophy in Indigenous Peoples education. Currently, my work revolves around the health and wellness of my Kainai (Blood Tribe) People by examining the intergenerational trauma and effects that colonization has created. I am trying to find pathways to restore balance back into our lives.
What excites you about your work?
As a Niitsitapiaak’ii (Blackfoot woman), I grew up being colonized, which included having my formal education experiences limited to Western knowledge systems only. I am most excited about having the intellectual space where I can reconnect with my Blackfoot ways of knowing, being, and doing. Through my work, I am also excited to privilege Indigenous knowledges, which includes Indigenous science. I strive to achieve what Elder Albert Marshall calls two-eyed seeing, where you see with each eye the strengths of Indigenous and Western ways of knowing and combine them for the benefit of all.
What sparked your interest in your field?
I did not have very positive experiences in school as an Indigenous person. I had lower expectations placed upon me because I am Indigenous, and the types of comments I received unfortunately affected how I saw myself and what I was actually capable of. It took some time to overcome the mental barriers that my kindergarten to grade 12 experiences created for me. Research studies have found that many Indigenous students also experience such barriers in school. I wanted to do something about this problem. I decided to go into the field of education to change this narrative about Indigenous Peoples, as well as the legitimacy of Indigenous knowledge systems. I wanted to be the kind of teacher who helps empower students and let them know that they are capable of successfully learning any subject in school. Additionally, I wanted my students to have positive learning experiences to help motivate them to continue their education. I especially wanted then to have positive experiences with math and science so that my students did not feel limited in their educational and career pursuits.
Tell us about the first time you felt really excited about what you were learning?
As an undergraduate student taking physical science courses, the different branches of Western science and the different lenses in which scientists examined science, whether through a chemistry lens, a biology lens, or a biochemistry lens, always fascinated me. It was interesting to learn the different Western perspectives. Obtaining my graduate education in Indigenous Peoples Education was the first time in my kindergarten through university education where I was allowed even to bring up Indigenous knowledges and where it was actually encouraged. It was exciting to be able to immerse myself and draw upon Indigenous knowledges and Indigenous perspectives. I see the value in both Western and Indigenous knowledges systems, and it is therefore important to me to strive to achieve two-eyed seeing.
What do you hope to accomplish through your work?
My greatest motivators have been my love for and intention to foster the betterment of my Kainai People and Indigenous Peoples across Canada. I became Dr. Prete to better serve the needs of my People and research what our community identifies as important. I believe in my People; I also believe we deserve a better existence than the one colonization has created for us. As a scholar, I hope my work leads to positive changes that improve the quality of life and relationships my People have with the rest of Canada.
What words of inspiration would you like to share with the next generation of women and girls?
I have had a lifetime of non-Indigenous People telling me what I can and cannot do as an Indigenous person, as well as an Indigenous woman. Others have placed me in arbitrary boxes based on assumptions about my ability and intelligence as an Indigenous person and a woman. My words of advice for women and girls is, do not let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do based on your gender or your ethnicity. Do not let stereotypes and low expectations be the deciding factor in your life. Choose a career that will challenge you, that you may never be bored, a career that excites you, and that you look forward each day to completing your work. And remember, do not compare yourself to others. The only person worth comparing yourself with is your own self. Become the best version of you.
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