Stephanie Thorassie was born in Thompson Mb, but lived and grew up in Tadoule Lake, a northern community in Manitoba which is solely accessible by snowmobile, plane and winter road. The Sayisi Dene First Nation Peoples, who primarily speak Denesuline, moved to Tadoule Lake in 1974 after a disastrous relocation and assimilation attempt by the Canadian government. According to registered demographics, as of 2013, the population living within Tadoule Lake was 311 people.
During our interview, Thorassie was kind enough to share her story and highlighted the fact that her graduating class consisted of her and one other person. She subsequently stated that this was common within her community and that the disparity of educational resources within many Northern First-Nations communities prevent success in post-secondary schools.
Following high school, at age 17, Thorassie moved to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba wherein she felt academically underprepared, isolated from her family, and overwhelmed by culture shock. When referring to First Nations individuals living in Northern communities who attend university, she stated that it’s “hard to go and stay.” Thorassie further expressed that it took her much more work to finish her degree than it would have taken someone non-indigenous and living/raised in the city.
Thorassie also indicated that upon entry to university she was not aware of, nor did she qualify for the access program available and was, therefore, denied the opportunity to receive tutoring from university-employed tutors. She stated that it would have been helpful to have access to tutoring services, specifically, by someone who grew up on-reserve as she could relate to them.
Overall, Thorassie’s story of resilience is inspiring but it also highlights the immense work which must be done to provide equity for First Nations Peoples, specifically living within Northern Communities.
- The A.S.E Outreach Team