She has run the gamut of roles within NLC — starting as a young mother finishing Grade 12, going on to get her Social Services Worker diploma, becoming a speaker for Orange Shirt Day, and then taking on the role of instructor for the Indigenous Human Services Worker program.
She’s now stepped into yet another position with NLC: Interim Director of Indigenous Education.
“Every time I come back, it’s in a different capacity, so I get to learn about the college in a different way but also learn how to function within it and how I can make changes in whatever role that I’m in. It’s kinda cool to see that evolution,” she says.
Helen is a familiar face within the Peace Region; her mother is from Prophet River First Nation, and her father grew up in Chetwynd. She also has family roots in Kelly Lake.
During her time in the Social Services Worker program, she got involved in grassroots advocacy, focussing on violence experienced by Indigenous women, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“Eventually that led me to a space of looking at how violence against Indigenous lands and Indigenous women’s bodies were connected,” she says, and that work led her to working on a short documentary for CBC, having articles published in various collections and academic journals, trying to bridge the information gap on the subject.
She published her first book, In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience, in 2019. In it, she discusses her battles with addiction and the impact of sexual violence.
“It focussed a lot on healing and touched on intergenerational trauma but also resiliency and sisterhood and ceremony, and I found that book really cleared space for writing about other things, too,” she says.
Her second book, Becoming a Matriarch, which is slated for release in 2023, also discusses grief and loss, but kinship and connections, as well.
Helen is very passionate about working directly with the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, helping them on their healing journey, but felt an emotional pull toward helping in a different way when she applied for the Director position.
“For me, I love being able to do that [frontline] work because it’s an honour to walk alongside people within their journey,” she says. But, “. . . what can I build instead of being in a reactionary space? That is still needed, because there’s healing that needs to be done. But what can I build for Indigenous people that are coming up? And how can I work for the people in a new capacity? That’s how I ended up in this role.”
As the Interim Director of Indigenous Education, Helen is looking forward to connecting with her team and working on building relationships, not only withing NLC but also in the communities and with community stakeholders.