“Oki niisto anakoka Iitomsao’kaasii (Hi, my name is Iitomsao’kaasii),” says Diandra Bruised Head, a 2016 graduate of Lethbridge College’s Renewable Resource Management program and the new in-tribe climate change coordinator for the Kainai First Nation.
“Oki niisto anakoka Iitomsao’kaasii (Hi, my name is Iitomsao’kaasii),” says Diandra Bruised Head, a 2016 graduate of Lethbridge College’s Renewable Resource Management program and the new in-tribe climate change coordinator for the Kainai First Nation. “Respecting the land is something that may come from my Indigenous culture, but it also comes from having a passion for supporting our abundant natural resources. It is something our ancestors just inherently knew and something many of us have lost along the way.”
As a child, Diandra walked the coulees with her mother and marvelled at the beauty all around her. She spent countless hours with nature but always felt there was an underrepresentation of Indigenous women in environmental roles. She sought to change that and started with education. After finishing her program at the college, Diandra earned a Bachelor of Environmental Science degree from the University of Lethbridge.
She stayed connected to the college even after graduation, frequenting the library and popping in to give a friendly hello to Indigenous Coordinator Marcia Blackwater, who she says provided invaluable support to her during her time on campus.
“Having a strong connection to my Blackfoot heritage and other Indigenous students on campus was important to me,” she says. “Marcia and the rest of Indigenous Services showed me that there were people on campus who not only cared about me as a student, but who also worked hard to make sure I felt my culture was supported.”
Diandra’s new job provides the opportunity for her to pursue a career that would not only highlight the fragility of the environment, but also help Indigenous people. In conjunction with the Government of Alberta and the Rockies Institute, a charitable organization based in Canmore, she is studying the effect of climate change on Indigenous populations within the Blackfoot Confederacy. Based in Standoff, she is aiding in the development of climate education sessions and offering opportunities for elders and youth to explore how climate change affects food security and quality of life.
“In nature, if a species is at risk you don’t just write it off, you look to improve its habitat,” she says. “The people, my people, in the Blood Nations are at risk. I’m trying to improve their habitat so they can thrive. Better the environment, better the people.”
Diandra is working hard to position herself a steward of the land and an agent of change. “There is an old saying that resonates with me, ‘When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money,’” she says.
“Saahkomiitapii (our earth being) and the many beautiful resources it shares with us are not a business, and we need to pay our respects.”