Devon (D): Tell me a bit about yourself.
Rachel (R): I am from the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation but grew up in Saskatoon. I have a B.Ed from the University of Saskatchewan, have completed the Indian Communication Arts Summer Institute at the First Nations University and I’m also a Master Coach Practitioner. Most of my time is spent with my two daughters and maintaining a healthy balance for all of us in all aspects of life. Whether it’s getting them to activities, school functions, studying, working, cooking, playing — we are very aware and vocal about the fact that all of those things can only be as balanced as we are within. We make sure to fill up our cups with self-love and self-care so we can be of service to others.
D: What drew you to SheNative?
R: I was drawn to SheNative because of their empowering clothing. It’s nice to put something on that makes you feel strong and empowered as an Indigenous woman.
D: I am sure you have heard of the #MeToo Campaign. I have seen so many stories on Facebook about this. What are your thoughts on it?
R: I had a lot of thoughts and feelings about the #MeToo campaign. At first I backed off from it because it was a lot to take in, triggering my own experiences. After awhile I did respond to the campaign with my own story on my Instagram page.
As a self-transformation coach, one of the biggest areas I help others tap into is personal healing. I know from my own experience, as tough and scary as triggers can be, it’s imperative that they are dealt with when they surface. I used the campaign to empathize and show compassion for myself as well as other survivors. We have choices as to how we react to something, and I used #MeToo as a catalyst for my own healing. I have come a long way when it comes to forgiveness, because when we don’t forgive someone they hold power over us, and we end up being the ones who suffer the most.
I have forgiven my perpetrators and have taken accountability for my part. I believe we can teach ourselves and our daughters to love themselves as much as we want; however, accountability still needs to be taken by the men who abuse women. Until then, it remains unbalanced.
D: Resilience and overcoming adversity is a common theme among Indigenous women in their lives, including mine, which is why I started SheNative. What types of barriers have you faced in your career? How did you overcome them?
R: One of the biggest barriers I have faced is survivor’s guilt and internalized oppression. As a survivor of inter-generational trauma due to residential school systems, I went through a lot, and overcame a lot, but a lot of my family have chosen different paths. I was the first one in my family to graduate out of my siblings, the first one to get a degree and the first one to start a career. However, I struggled with anxiety, depression, guilt, addictions, and many other obstacles so it was anything but easy to be one of the “crabs out of the bucket,” so to speak. “Crabs in the bucket syndrome” is very real. Addictions have plagued my loved ones and family, and it was hard to believe I was deserving of a better life — one that I could enjoy and love.
As for internalized oppression, I went through the whole identity crisis thing. I went to high school with people who had no idea about Indigenous people, but sure had a lot of perceptions of them. I walked halls among others who openly said things like, "Indians are all drunks,” “They eat Lysol on bread,” “They are all in jail and live on welfare,” and so on. The toughest part about hearing those things was that it was true for me — my mother was in and out of jail my whole life, we did grow up on welfare, and drinking was not abnormal for us. So I became very confused, angry, hurt and upset about not knowing the history of this country, and of my family.
My father is a fluent Cree speaker, but we never learned the language because he came from a time when there was a lot of shame for being Indigenous and not a lot of Cree speakers in the city. I really struggled with all of it. Learning about the truths and lies I was told since I was a little girl, and learning how to come out of it all, more enlightened and forgiving.
I had to forgive myself for believing such horrible and hurtful things about who I was as a human being, and really — just let it all go. That is how I started to heal and take my power back.
D: Do you keep something in your handbag that nobody knows about? What is it?
R: If I tell you, then everyone will know about it!!! ☺
I keep a few crystals in my purse. I am a highly sensitive person, so I keep a couple that have grounding energy, just in case I can’t get outside everyday to connect with the energy of Mother Earth.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Rachel. We are inspired.
Rachel Yahyahkeekoot is a Self-Transformation Coach in Saskatoon, SK.
With hundreds of entries to choose from, it was not easy for our selection committee to pick just two powerhouse Indigenous models for our Holiday Campaign. However, after much soul-searching, we did it. Thank you again to everyone who submitted and shared our Model Call on social media.
Today we would like to introduce you to one of our models — the fierce and resilient Lacey Crocker.