11 Dec

Hi Everyone! I'm Jaida Ponce, and I'm a Kichi Siibi (Ottawa River Valley) Anishinaabe-kwe from Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. I'm currently living in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough), which is a big part of who I am. When I was young I learned fancy shawl dancing while at my community’s powwow from my aunties and veteran fancy shawl dancers. I have also had the opportunity to attend and learn about ceremonies and have learned many stories and teachings from many of my Elders some of which are Edna Manitowabi, Nicole Bell, and Harold Perry. My yearly joy is going to my community and being able to go out on the lake and gather manoomin. I've been learning Anishinaabemowin since I started schooling, and have continued this learning all the way through my schooling. I have had the privilege of learning from an assortment of teachers including Merritt Taylor, Sarah MacLeod-Beaver, and Liz Osawamick. When I was young my grandmother and I participated in a drumming group which has influenced my passion for traditional singing.  All these things helped shape my life and worldview. Volunteering has always been an important teaching lesson in my life. In my youth my family often showed me the importance of respecting and looking after others in a community space. In a traditional sense, my family always made sure to instill the value of giving and how it's important to maintain balance in our lives and communities. They taught me the importance of making sure to clean up before you leave, ensuring Elders eat first, doing what you can to take care of knowledge holders and guests, creating a welcoming space, and giving back to the Earth. These are just a few of the many valuable lessons I learned from participating in my culture and volunteering in an assortment of programs and events, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.  Most of my work experience to date has built on this knowledge and experience. One of my first work experiences was with the Oshawa Community Health Centre, where I planned and ran Indigenous rock painting activities with children and youth at drum socials. Following this, I began to lead rock painting and craft activities at my community’s culture camp. This opportunity expanded out to include the task of leading groups of children and youth (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) through Anishinaabemowin scavenger hunts in outdoor settings.  More recently, I was hired by the Aboriginal Resource Centre at Humber College as a Youth Instructor in the Indigenous Camp Choice program. I really loved being able to work with the youth and see them have fun while learning.  Indigenous programming, specifically those designed for Indigenous youth, has always been an important tool and learning experience in my life. Having been placed in many Indigenous summer camps and going to big drum social events and Indigenous knowledge gatherings and teachings each year, I found a connection and an opportunity to learn. Learning more about my own culture and what that looks like now, it was very important for my growth and development to have access to these sorts of programming. In my experience participating in Indigenous programming helped give me more confidence in my culture and identity. I gained connections with my Elders and a place that helped me grow as a person.  I've witnessed the impact of these programs and how important it is to give a safe space for learning.  Now that I'm older, I've enjoyed creating similar spaces for other Indigenous youth as others did for me. Working in the TRACKS Oshkwazin development and delivery position, I'm excited to create a fun learning environment and programming for indigenous and non-indigenous youth. It's a learning experience everyday thinking of new programming moving forward and what that looks like. I'm excited to facilitate programming and create relationships with youth that hopefully will touch their lives as this kind of programming touched mine. I've enjoyed working with youth and know the impacts of youth-centered programs as they had a great impact on the person I am today. I feel it's very important to share Indigenous Knowledges and points of view. I'm looking forward to being a part of the change that empowers young youth like me and to continue their learning journey. In the future, I plan to continue learning and improving my growth as a person. I have yet to decide what schooling program I'd like to go into but I know college will be in my future. I want to keep improving my fluency in Anishinaabemowin and connecting to more knowledge holders to learn more things. I will continue my volunteering at cultural events and helping my community grow. Every day is a learning experience and I'm grateful for the opportunities given to me by my trailblazers and to be able to now make a change for others.