“I started learning about residential schools. I started learning about generational trauma and that's when I realized like, okay, there's nothing wrong with us. I'm not broken. There's things that happened that caused us to be living this way. And once I realized that there was nothing wrong with me and with my people, that's when I really started to regain a lot of strength and courage."
This special episode is released on National Indigenous Peoples' Day, a day to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
So today's episode features Jill Featherstone, a wonderful Indigenous mother, grandmother, university professor, and author of the book, “The Tale of Tiger Lily”. In fact, Jill is so good, she was continuously accused of plagiarism as a student.
From Jill’s story, you’ll see why decolonization is needed in our universities and schools. How can education based in brick buildings and academic papers truly value teachings from oral traditions and land-based skills?
I could say more, but I’d rather let her speak for herself. Before we hear from Jill, please be aware that we speak openly about racist events and discrimination that may be painful and distressing to you. If you are a survivor of residential schools or related trauma, and need help – please call the Indian Residential Schools 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.
Contact me and find JEDI resources at: https://www.changinglenses.ca/
In this episode, we talk about:
Full transcript here.
About Jill Featherstone:
Jill is a mother of 5 and step-mom to 3. She is a wife, a grandmother, an instructor at University College of the North in Northern Manitoba, and an author. Her novel for young adults, “The Tale of Tiger Lily”, is inspired by the character created by J.M. Barrie’s play “Peter Pan”. Jill takes us into the mind of the young Tiger Lily as she comes of age, blending cultural resonance with a classic tale.
Jill is also the founder of Featherstone Support Services, providing motivational workshops for Indigenous youth and young adults. To date she has helped hundreds of Indigenous youth and young adults find the motivation, courage and confidence to go back to school and enter into the workforce.
References and resources in this episode:
If you enjoy the podcast and want deeper ways to Change your Lens in work and business, check out the free resources on my website, changinglenses.ca. I also offer workshops and keynote speeches on JEDI topics like Decolonizing Corporate Workplaces, recruiting more inclusively, anti-Asian racism, and many more. How can I support your JEDI journey? Contact me at changinglenses.ca.
Please note: the transcripts attempt to stay true to the essence of each conversation, while maintaining clarity and readability. As a result, certain "filler" words, and nuances of tone, emotion and emphasis will be missing.
If you're able, you're strongly encouraged to listen to the audio podcast. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human editors, and may contain errors.
Jill: When I went to university was when I actually learned about who I was with my Indigenous identity. I started learning about the history because I didn't have it passed down to me.
I started learning about residential schools. I started learning about generational trauma and that's when I realized like, okay, there's nothing wrong with us. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm not broken. Like we're not broken. There's things that happened that caused us to be living this way. And once I realized that there was nothing wrong with me and with my people. That's when I really started to regain a lot of strength and courage. And once I started to stand up for myself, that's when I realized like all of those dreams that I had as a young child, they're still there in the back of my mind and now like let's start working on those now.
Rosie: Fellow Canadians, today is June 21, 2021, which is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s meant to be a day that recognizes the culture and history of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people of Turtle Island. But this is the same culture and history that colonizers, governments and churches tried to eradicate through atrocities like residential schools.
Jill Featherstone is an example of how effective that cultural eradication was. She grew up without her rightful Treaty status, without Indigenous traditions, and without even knowing residential schools existed, until she was in her 20’s. So while Jill wasn’t a residential school student herself, she’s still a victim. Have you heard of the term, intergenerational trauma? It’s the impact that carries on through a family’s descendants from traumatic events like residential schools.
Today, Jill honours us by bravely sharing her personal story of battling lifelong (and still ongoing) racism; discovering her Indigenous identity; and learning to believe in herself when no one else would. And if you thought anti-Indigenous racism in education ended along with residential schools – you need to hear Jill’s stories about her university experience!
Thankfully, it didn’t stop Jill from getting her Masters’ degree and becoming a university instructor herself. She’s also an author, motivational speaker and empowerment coach for Indigenous youth, helping them uncover their inner strengths and develop a positive self-image.
But before we hear from Jill, please be aware that we speak openly about racist events and discrimination that may be painful and distressing to you. If you’re a survivor of residential schools or related trauma, and need help – please call the Indian Residential Schools 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419. This number is also in the podcast shownotes on my website, changinglenses.ca.
And if you’re an ally and supporter and want to help, I have a list of resources for you also on my website.
But first – a quick intro and land acknowledgment.
[intro music plays]
Rosie: Welcome to Changing Lenses. You’re invited to step into the lives of people on the front lines of discrimination, racism, and exclusion; to see the world through their eyes; and to hear their personal story of their fight for social justice.
I’m your host, Rosie Yeung, a Chinese-Canadian, immigrant, cis-straight female with invisible disabilities, and I’m passionate about justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
Do you also want to see social change happen? Then please join me in Changing Lenses.
Each episode is hosted on colonized land that was taken from many Indigenous nations, including the Anishinaabe, the Huron-Wendat, and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. I seek Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people of Turtle Island, and I call upon us all to decolonize our thinking, not just our systems. Learn more on my website, changinglenses.ca.
Now please, enjoy the episode.
[intro music ends]
Rosie: Hello, Jill. Welcome. I'm so glad you could join us today for this podcast episode.
Jill: Thank you. I'm really happy to be here.
Rosie: I'm really excited and so glad you can make it. And Jill before we dive into it because I have so many things I'm eager to hear your perspective on I do want to reassure you that this is a safe and comfortable space because I know some of the things we talk about might be a bit sensitive. And I want you to feel like you can be honest and open and vulnerable in our conversations. So I commit to you and to our listeners that this is a safe space, and I invite you to keep me accountable, to being respectful and nonjudgmental. And definitely let me know if I say, or pronounce anything incorrectly.
Jill: Thank you.
Rosie: So without further ado in the introduction to the episode, I talk about where I'm based out of and where I'm recording the podcast today. Would you do us the honor of sharing where you are based and what treaty you're on.
Jill: All right. I'm from the Misipawistik Cree Nation. And we are smack dab in the middle of Manitoba. So there's Manitoba and then there's Lake Winnipeg and we are right off of Lake Winnipeg. The population is around 1500 living on reserve.
Rosie: So I have to admit this is, I mean, I've been in meetings and maybe some of you who are listening have been in conferences where someone has said a land acknowledgement. I don't want this to just be like, Oh, we just talked about where you're from or where you're currently living. So you speaking about it, or when you hear about it, what does that mean to you? This like acknowledging the land.
Jill: In my perspective. I don't know what it was like before. However, I have an uncle who talks about the land all the time. His name is Brian. And he talks about what life was like before the dam and what the water was like and he's a fishermen. So the livelihood of his family and all of our families was based off of fishing. And my grandfather was a fisherman. And when the dam came, it changed the way of life for everybody in our community. And the fishing isn't what it used to be. You can almost say that it's slowly starting to die out in our community. And with the hydro dam it also brought in new people into our community, into our reservation. And changed our way of life substantially since then. I wish I could say it was for the better, but I don't believe it was. Our way of life has really been eroded and um, we've had a hard time reconnecting and going back to that way of life, even in just the smallest ways.
Rosie: Wow. Thanks for sharing that. I think that's really important to know cause it's easy for me just to sit here and be like, yeah, I just think about land values, right? And in Toronto, all they talk about is real estate prices so it's just about how much you can get for a piece of land or we don't even think about land. I think about buildings and houses and stuff. So I'm really glad to hear something
Jill: For us it's a way of life. It's how we, you know, help people put food on the table. There's hunting, fishing, trapping, and it's all centered around this big body of water that we're living on. I don't even think a lot of people really talk about real estate back home. It's about like preservation of the land and trying to reconnect and just still trying to teach our young people how to support themselves and how to live off the land still.
Rosie: So today, like right now, are you still living on reserve or are you off reserve?
Jill: Right now I'm off reserve. I was living on reserve until just this past August and we moved to a little city. It's called Brandon. Brandon, Manitoba. It's just a small city in the Southern part of Manitoba
Rosie: Okay, so you lived on reserve up until pretty much last August. And I know from talking to you previously that you mostly have done reserve, could you tell us a bit about just what that was like growing up on reserve? What was that like for you as a child?
Jill: Hmm. It's a bit complicated. There's kind of a backstory, so I'll see how far I can take you back, but we didn't always live on reserve because in order to live on the reserve, you have to have treaty status. So you have to belong to a treaty. Right now, we belong to treaty five, but we didn't always belong to a treaty because when my grandmother, um, she was an Indigenous woman. When she married my grandfather, he was non-Indigenous. So when they got married, she lost her treaty status. They were forced off the reserve and that was in Skownan First Nation. They weren't allowed to live on the reserve. Basically like you know, you were just told you're not an Indigenous person anymore. You don't have rights to the land. You don't have rights to treaty. And my auntie told me a bunch of stories about my grandmother. When that happened and when she lost her treaty status and she was basically forced out. She wanted so bad to reconnect. And reconnect with her family, reconnect with her people and be accepted. And just what she would do is when my grandfather was away on, for work or hunting or whatever, she would sell their things. She would even sell things like horses and stuff, or give them away, not sell. Sorry. She would give them away as kind of like peace offerings and just trying to get back into the good graces and being accepted again. And so this was on my mother's side.
And then on my father's side it was basically the same kind of scenario. Like my grandfather was non-treaty. He was Metis. And then my grandmother was Indigenous, so we didn't have our treaty status. And I think I would say I kind of grew up displaced. I didn't know where I belonged. I didn't know where I fit in. I didn't fit in with the non-Indigenous kids at school and I didn't fit in with the Indigenous kids living on the reserve. Like I was kind of stuck in the middle. Cause when I looked in the mirror, I know who I saw. I saw an Indigenous girl. I had brown skin, brown hair, brown eyes. And I knew that's what I was, but everybody else around me told me that's not who you are. I just didn't even have an identity for the longest time.
Rosie: How long did that last in your childhood? When did that change? If it changed?
Jill: I would say like I always noticed that I was different and I didn't belong. I was subjected to racism my whole childhood. My whole entire childhood I can probably go through every single grade and pick out little things that happened to me from each of those years, like, I'll pick out one. In Grade Six I came into the classroom and I remember all the kids were staring and waiting for me to sit down. And when I sat down they'd put a pin on my chair. So they had taped a pin on my chair and I sat on it. And I remember jumping up and all the kids started laughing cause they were just waiting for me. And I remember thinking, don't let them see you cry. Don't let them see you cry. And as I got older , those kinds of things would happen either to other students and then I would watch or they would happen to me and as a result I tried really hard to blend in. I didn't want to draw attention to myself. And I suppressed a lot of things that I would want to say, things that I wanted to do. And I kinda hit like this breaking point in high school and I started to act out. So I started to get into a lot of trouble. I was eventually kicked out of school a couple of times.
Rosie: What do you mean by acting out?
Jill: I would talk back to the teachers. Get myself expelled. I don't know how many times I've gotten into fight trying to defend myself. And then I kind of developed this. I'm going to hurt you before you can hurt me attitude. So I became a bully and I started bullying people because they had hurt me so much growing up so that I just kind of put up this wall and I wanted to show everybody how tough I was. It lasted long enough for me to eventually get kicked out of school. And then I had to go back to the reserve because by that time we were living in a little town called The Pas, Manitoba and I had gotten myself expelled from every single school that was there.
Rosie: What was your family's reaction? Like your parents and siblings or Indigenous friends? Like each time you got in trouble, you got in fights and expelled. What was their reaction?
Jill: Well for my friends, it was normal because this is how we were all acting out. We were all moving in the same direction, all of my friends. We were getting in trouble. We were just doing things we weren't supposed to. Dropping out of school. So to them, it was normal. And to my parents, they were really upset. They came down really hard on themselves because they tried to give us, me and my brothers and sisters a better life. They wanted so much for us. They didn't want this for us but, I don't think they realized what was happening. And I don't even think I really told them what was happening until later in life. So they just saw me acting out and they didn't know why. They didn't know why I was acting the way I was because in their eyes, you know, I was their sweet little girl that they tried so hard to make a good life for.
Rosie: I'm sorry for all this stuff that you went through. I'm really thankful that you are telling us about this today because even what you described about the school. That's not the image of Canada I had, um, the segregation. Like us who think that we are better than the US, we're not. I feel so naive as I'm expressing this kind of shock right now, to be honest, because it feels really stupid and naive when this is what a lot of your real life experiences have been so I just want to be thankful for your courage and being able to share this because it's really important for people to hear this.
I'm just thinking about the reserve and going back to try to graduate from school. When was it that you were able to get the status back to go? Cause initially you couldn't be on reserve cause you didn't have the status.
Jill: I might've been around 13 or 14. What happened was they granted my father his treaty status, and I'm not sure the story behind that, but they were able to pass it onto us. And see, and that's the thing, like, you know, having your treaty status, it's only one part of your Indigenous identity.
When I went to to university was when I actually learned about who I was with my Indigenous identity. I started learning about the history because I didn't have it passed down to me. I knew culture as hunting, fishing. But, I didn't know anything about the traditional Indigenous culture with powwows, sundances, I didn't know any of that. And then I found out later that my mother comes from a long line of traditional people in her bloodline. But when my grandmother died, all of that died with her and it wasn't passed on to us. So now as an adult it's now my own responsibility to try and regain some of that lost culture. But a good thing and a really positive thing in my life is that I'm now a university professor and I'm in a land-based education program. And through my work, I have the opportunity to learn with my students. So we have elders that come into the school. We have traditional people and people that come in and share the history and then I get to learn with them.
That's been a real bonus because people think just because you're Indigenous then you know all of this stuff and it's not true. I want to say most of us, but I don't have facts, but a large number of us don't have that cultural history anymore and we don't have that knowledge. And it's almost false to assume that we do just because we're Indigenous.
Rosie: Yeah, I can totally see that. And especially now as incidents of anti-Indigenous racism or especially anti Indigenous women's racism comes, it's like, Oh, let's turn to Indigenous people and have them teach us all this stuff. Like to educate us as if they know, but even the residential schools and 60's scoop, how do we expect Indigenous people to know when we colonists purposely tried to take that away from them, right. So that's a really good reminder that we can't expect that when we really kind of did a good job at assimilating unfortunately, right, people of Indigenous background.
So like it's wonderful that you are having this opportunity to learn. I'm glad there's that silver lining. Could you walk us through, I mean, here you are this teenager, considered a bad kid in school, getting expelled from all these high schools. I'm sure your teachers in high school would have never expected you to become a university professor. Can you tell us a bit about that path? I'm sure it's super easy, right? Like super easy from high school being expelled, to now you're a university professor. How did you get from A to B?
Jill: It was a complete 180 for me. I really had to change my life because I became a statistic and a statistic for you know, our Indigenous young people is we drop out of high school and there's teen pregnancy. We have the highest teen pregnancy rates, highest dropout rates, highest rates in incarceration, highest rates in suicides, highest like everything. So I was becoming a statistic. I was pregnant at 17 and I dropped out of school. And so there I found myself, okay, I'm pregnant and I literally have nothing to offer this child that's coming. I have no education. I have no money. I have no future. And that's really when one of the first big life changes for me was then I had to go back to school and I made a vow to my unborn daughter that I was going to give her a good life. And I wanted to mirror what my parents had done for us. So that's what I did.
I went back to school and then I went to university after that but, the things that followed were the same. And the things that followed me that plagued me was the racism. The racism followed me. The racism still plagued me. And the racism still attempted to bring me down. I had been accused of plagiarism while I was in university. The way that they would do it was they were so condescending. I would hand in a paper and they come up to me and say like, I'm sorry dear, but you're supposed to put this in your own words. You're not supposed to take things directly from the book and pass it off as your own. You need to give credit to the true author. And they would talk to me like that. And I would say but these are my words. I wrote this. Can you tell me where you saw this quote that I supposedly plagiarized and then show me. I had to fight just to be heard. I just said let me prove to you that I did not plagiarize. And he wouldn't listen to me. He wouldn't speak to me. He wouldn't allow me a chance to defend myself.
At the time I felt like they are targeting me because of my race. Why am I always being accused of plagiarism? There was another girl in the class and I remember she just got this wonderful mark on her paper, but why wasn't she accused of plagiarism? Why was it only me all the time? And I never wanted to go there and say, it's because of my race.
I wanted to be able to prove myself and win this case based on my own academic ability. I didn't want to win because of me accusing them of being racist. I just, I didn't want to give them that satisfaction. You know, I wanted to show them that it's me. I did this and I earned this
Rosie: You wanted your merit to be recognized?
Jill: Yeah. And when he did agree to see me, I took my 13 year old daughter. I wanted her to see.
Jill: I wanted her to see me speaking to this man and me fighting for my mark that I deserve. And then when it was all said and done and he was apologizing, he's like, oh, you must want to just call me an asshole, right. You go ahead, call me whatever you want. And then thinking back on it now I should have, but I just said to him, I was like, you know what. I want my mark and I wanna walk out this door and I never want to think about you or this incident ever again. Cause I was just, I was so done. Like it was really, really hard emotionally, mentally, like I almost quit school.
I was going to quit school. That's how hard it was. And my husband wouldn't let me. came all this way. You, you worked this hard. Like don't let them win. You have to keep fighting. So I did, but
Rosie: It shouldn't have to be that way. It shouldn't have to be a war, right. You shouldn't have to fight a war to get your degree.
Jill: Yes, exactly right? And I kind of felt like they were out to remove the Indigenous people from the university because the university was being questioned as to why Indigenous people were being given master's degrees when they don't have strong writing skills. A Master's degree means that you're an expert at something. Technically, you don't need to have academic writing skills to show that you were a master at a land-based skill. So there were a lot of Aboriginal people that had obtained Master's degrees in these specific areas, in like an oral history, oral traditions. And so now the university was afraid of being questioned because these Indigenous peoples with their Master's degrees were going to try to apply for PhDs.
And then the different universities would be questioning them like, how is it that you have a Master's degree and you don't have academic writing skills? So I overheard this conversation between two university professors. This exact conversation about our universities handing out master's degrees to Indigenous people, and we can't have that. We have to start coming down on them and making sure that they can perform the way they're supposed to. It was a really ugly conversation.
And I still remember the profs that were speaking this way. I won't say their names because they're still working. But I can remember it just so clearly in my mind. And
Rosie: And these were profs, like Caucasian male profs.
Jill: One was a female and one was a male.
So I knew that I got to watch myself now because there's a target on my back and they're going to be out to get me. And sure enough it happened in one of my classes. I was in university in my master's class and there was four Indigenous people in the classroom and the other three were older. At the time I was in my late 20's and the other ones were in their 50's and 60's. And we all had to write an academic paper. A 10 page academic paper. So I went into the library and I was finishing my paper and I noticed that the other students were in there. So I went around and I tried to help them. And one man in particular, I noticed that his whole essay was one big, long paragraph. And I knew right away, I was like. It's going to get dinged for this. This is exactly what they were talking about, you know, this writing stuff. And then, so I was reading his paper and I was like, Oh my God. This is amazing. Like the stuff that he was writing on that paper, you cannot find that kind of information anywhere. Not going to find it in any Aboriginal history books. It was so insightful. It was so genuine, it just came from a place of true knowledge, you know, and I could just feel the power in his words, but I knew what the profs wanted. They wanted to see academic writing. They wanted to see paragraphs and every point that he made needed to be supported by the point of view of a researcher. Like it needed to be supported by references. And I remember thinking like, how was he supposed to reference any of this stuff? The research doesn't exist. You know, this is oral truth-telling, but they are expecting him to have this referenced. So I helped him as best I could, but I knew that it wasn't going to be enough. So I remember going back to school the following week after we'd handed in our papers and the prof opened the class.
And she's like, I just want to let everybody know that there are three people in this class that I've had to ask to leave because they don't belong here. Academically they're not ready to be here. They weren't smart enough to be at this level of education. And then I looked around the classroom and I noticed that those three Aboriginal students were gone. I was the only one left.
Jill: And it's been like that with every single thing that I've ever done. I've always had to prove myself. Nobody can just accept me for what I am and what I have to offer. But you know what, it hasn't stopped me from trying, it's just made it a bit harder.
Rosie: Probably a lot harder, right? You were a mom. You are doing this with additional burdens cause frankly it's harder on you as an Indigenous woman than on a Caucasian woman where I feel like there's a bit more understanding, but you went to school. You were trying to make it and take care of your kids and be a wife all at the same time. And getting all these messages that you weren't good enough. Like what you wrote was so good that you couldn't have written it by yourself. How did that affect you? I mean, I'm so happy that you pushed through and you made it. But what was that degree of extra hardness? What did that end up doing to you and your career and what kind of challenges did that present for you?
Jill: Well, it definitely set me back in a lot of ways, but it opened my eyes to a lot of different things. I'll give you an example with my daughter. I didn't realize that because I was carrying these feelings of shame in who I was, low self-worth, you know, I used to be somebody that was really strong and courageous and I kind of felt like I was just shying into myself. And so I noticed that I was passing that onto my daughter, and she would draw pictures of herself and she would draw pictures of herself with blonde hair and blonde pigtails. And that's one of the first things I noticed.
And then things started happening when I was going to school and she was a little girl, like five, six years old. I wanted to put her in things like Girl Guides and gymnastics. Like I wanted her to do all of these things that I never got to do when I was a kid. And so she was in um, Girl Guides and they want to have a sleepover with all the girls. And they asked me if I would allow her to sleep over and I was like, oh, I don't know, she's like only five. But I'll just let her anyway.
And then, so I remember staying by the phone. I was just a little bit worried about her and then sure enough the phone rang and it was around 11:30 and they asked me if I can come get her. And I said, why what's going on? And they said, well, some of the girls moved her sleeping bag to the corner of the room because they don't want to sleep beside her. So I went to go get her right away. And I asked her like, what happened? And she was saying they were calling me brown and they didn't want to sleep beside me.
Rosie: I'm just, okay. I'm thinking, I really don't understand why in that example with the sleepover, the parents solution, like she's in the house with other kid's.
Jill: It's at a church.
Rosie: Oh my gosh. Okay. So their solution is for you to come and get your daughter away because the other girls didn't want to, like it wasn't to try to mediate or get accept her.
Jill: Yes, exactly right? Now when I think back on it, like I would be so angry at myself because why were you not strong enough to speak up for your child? As a parent, what I should have done is I should have said to them, why don't you send those girls home? Why don't you phone those girls mom and say, this is what they did to this young girl. They're calling her racist names and they moved her sleeping bag to the corner of the room. Come get your daughter.
And you know, like this Girl Guides where you're supposed teaching these kids how to get along and love each other. But because I had been subjected to so many things already, I wasn't strong enough to believe that I could stand up for myself. I was so angry at myself that when I got older, it's like, why didn't you say something? Why aren't you strong enough to say something.
Rosie: It shouldn't be on you. Like, I think this is part of the problem in the system is that then you as a good mom, end up blaming yourself for not fighting harder. And we know from everything you've shared about your child that you are a fighter, right? Like your nature isn't to just lie down and take stuff, but you can only fight so much. That's my opinion. You can only fight so much and you would have been the only person up there trying to fight. Not just for you, but for other little brown girls, right. That would be going through the same thing.
I haven't been through that, but I can completely imagine and understand that when no one else is willing to fight for you, there's only so much fighting for yourself that you can do. Which is why it's important for us now to do that, to stand up for each other and help each other. Now that we know our eyes are being opened. What are we going to do about this as a community? Not just as one mom trying to protect her daughter.
Jill: Yeah. And when I got into my late 20's and I really started having my eyes open to everything. I started learning about residential schools. I started learning about generational trauma and that's when I realized like, okay, there's nothing wrong with us. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm not broken. Like we're not broken. There's things that happened that caused us to be living this way. And once I realized that there was nothing wrong with me and with my people, that's when I really started to regain a lot of strength and courage. And once I started to stand up for myself, that's when I realized like all of those dreams that I had as a young child, they're still there in the back of my mind and now like let's start working on those now.
And that's when I decided to start writing again, because for the longest time I wanted to be a writer and I was a good writer. I used to be able to write stories. I remember my teacher reading my story to the class in Grade Nine and she was just so amazed at my story.
When I realized, okay, like I am a good writer. I want to write a book. Like I have enough courage and enough self-belief now that I'm just going to go for it. And I'm going to start writing this book. And as I was writing it those little fears would come back. It took me seven years to write my book. And throughout that whole seven years, those fears creeped in at every interval. And I remember as I got towards the end of the book, those fears came back full force. I was afraid. I was afraid of putting my book out there. I was afraid of not being good enough. I was afraid to be laughed at, to be ridiculed, to be told that you can't write this. Who do you think you are to write this? I was afraid of all of that. And I had to do so much work on myself and to build myself up enough to tell myself. Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And you will. And you don't have to be afraid. And once I reached that point I was able to release my book out into the world and not fear what the outcome was going to be.
And because I did it. I can now help others. I can help young people find their voice, find their courage, find their self-worth. Reclaim their strength, reclaim their identity, and I can help them chase their big dreams that they still have.
Congratulations on the book. I'm really proud of you too and your story. We are going to talk about your book, but just before we do that, I'm really interested to hear more about how you did that. And especially because I know you're dedicated to helping young people, especially young Indigenous people to overcome all those demons, right. That you said you faced right when you're on the cusp of being so successful in overcoming. I believe in self-talk and self encouragement, and I know there's all this psychology behind it. Is there one technique or something that you found really helpful for you that helped you to get over those final humps?
Well for me, I had to combine a couple of strategies together, like in a couple of different things that I had to do for myself. And learning about residential school, generational trauma and how that works and how it's affected me and how it affects young people today. That was an integral piece to me regaining my self worth and self confidence. It's like when people say you have to know where you've been to know where you're going. There's so much truth to that. And I really did have to learn about who I was as an Indigenous person because that helps to set the foundation. I have to be proud of who I was and I have to really truly believe in it.
Because there's so many people today still that I see that are ashamed of who they are. That are ashamed of their brown skin. I teach young people how to do positive self-talk. I teach them how to do goal setting. I teach them how to pick themselves up when they fall. I teach them how to be their biggest cheerleader, because a lot of our young people they're in the system right now and they don't have families to tell them you're beautiful. You're smart. You're funny. So I teach them how to tell themselves. Like they don't have somebody to pick them up and encourage them every time they fall and push them to be the best that they could be. So I teach them how to do that to themselves.
And that's basically what I do with Featherstone Support Services, it's a business where I provide motivational workshops. But since COVID, I haven't been able to get out there in person. So I'm working right now on getting some of my workshops online.
My theme right now is lateral violence because I've been seeing it a lot on social media lately and I've been experiencing it a lot in my life. So I really want to target lateral violence and I want to shed some light on it, provide some information. Provide people with a safe space to talk about their experiences.
Rosie: And just for anyone who doesn't know, what is lateral violence?
Jill: Lateral violence is similar to bullying. It's one of the direct effects of residential schools. The residual effects of intergenerational trauma. It's when the oppressed become the oppressors. It's when we start projecting all of the things that we went through onto others. Instead of encouraging each other to be better, we bring each other down. There's jealousy, bullying, oh, there's so many things that are involved, but it's basically like we have lost the ability to build one another up and be happy for each other. We would sooner bring each other down. And this happens a lot in Indigenous communities because it is a direct result of intergenerational trauma. So it's everywhere.
Jill: And it really, really needs to be addressed more and more. Especially with our young people that are growing up thinking it's normal. So we have to start showing them that, no, this is not normal to bring somebody down when they've done something good in their life. We're supposed to be there applauding them and saying way to go. Like, if you can do it, I can do it.
Rosie: Yeah. Well, I'm really glad that you have a workshop on that because it's clearly really, really needed. And we can't get into all the depth and complexity of lateral violence just on this one podcast. So I do hope that people check out what that workshop is and see if it's for them.
Jill: Yeah. And like all the links to that are on my business website. And that's FeatherstoneSupportServices.com.
Rosie: Okay, great. FeatherstoneSupportServices.com, which we'll also include in the shownotes. Thanks for that, Jill.
Well, I can tell you Jill, that I really wish you were my university prof because I absolutely needed to hear exactly what you're saying. Everybody needs to know that they can do it. So I am really glad that our young people today have you as their teacher and can look up to you and know that not only can they do it, but here's an example of someone who's overcome and done it herself and published this book.
I'm holding up a copy of this book, which is called The Tale of Tiger Lily, a novel. Congratulations. What a culmination of, you said seven years, right? Seven years of overcoming everything and writing this. It's a young adult fiction book. Do you want to give us a quick overview Jill of what your book is about?
Jill: The character is Tiger Lily from Peter Pan. So a lot of people remember Peter Pan from the Disney version and she was the little Indigenous girl and her dad was the big chief. I wrote the story of Tiger Lily because I remember her character because when you're an Indigenous kid, like the second you see somebody like you on TV, it stays in your mind because you don't see it. You don't see people like you on TV. We still don't. There's very few Indigenous actors and actresses out there that have really made it into the mainstream. So when you see them, you remember them and I remembered Tiger Lily. She was the little girl with the braids and the feather in her hair. But I was thinking like, you know, we never really got to find out what happened to her. What's her backstory. And I had been writing ideas for a character that I wanted to create. And I wanted to do a coming of age novel and I wanted to show somebody strong. Then I remember Tiger Lily and I was like, oh, I could write her story.
And one thing I'm going to say is that I never had writer's block when I was writing her story. The reason it took so long is because I had so many other blocks. All of the self-worth and all of the pushing myself to not be so scared and pushing myself to just do the hard work because it's hard work writing a book. But I'm so thankful that I didn't have writer's block because the story was always in my mind. I was like, come on. I just want to get it out. I can see it happening and I want to write it on paper. And sometimes I didn't believe in my ability to write. And then I would scare myself and then I wouldn't write for a while because I was like, oh, I'm not good enough. And then I'd have to remind myself, yes you are, you can do it.
And then when it was finished I catch myself thinking about some of the events in the story and how I feel so deeply connected to not only the character, but the events that happened because I interweaved a lot of historical events in this book. I talk about ceremony. I talk about events. I talk about things that happened to us. And I try to include like this modern take on it where, you know, there's love and there's action, there's adventure, there's jealousy.
There's just so many different feelings and it's, it was really fun to write and it was fun to read. Like when I would be finished each chapter and just to get lost in her story all over again, I find myself always thinking about her.
Rosie: Well I know, cause I've seen online that there've been like really positive reviews. And this has been really well received. And with all the talk now of hopefully not tokenism diversity, but really needing to broaden our curriculum in schools, right. And broaden like the literature that we have.
Jill: Yeah. That's what my real hope for this book is that we can give a voice and propel our Indigenous people into mainstream literature and mainstream culture. And because I'm a teacher, I have this form for teachers and educators, like, so if you order like a class set, then like I'll Zoom into your classroom and do an author chair with your students after they're finished reading the book, because I want to Zoom in and talk to these kids and like hear what they've have to say and just maybe give them a little bit of an insight as to different things that they might've missed. Different pieces of history that I might be able to fill in for them.
Rosie: Okay. This sounds like an amazing opportunity. How do people, how do teachers, school boards, whoever, take you up on this? So your website is jillfeatherstone.com. Okay.
Jill: If you go to jillfeatherstone.com it might be on the first page it'll say purchase this book from the author. And then there's like a link for schools and organizations or else you could just scroll down on under books and then there'll be a link and then you can just download the form to order books. And then whoever orders, I think 10 or more books gets a free author visit.
Rosie: Oh my gosh, that's a deal. And if there are questions, cause I can imagine, not only would people want to read your book, but you've already given us so much insight and hope for anybody who is feeling that lack of self-confidence and needs some help to being their best self and their full self. Is there a way to get in touch with you? Is, is the website the best way or is there another way that people can contact you for any follow-up?
Jill: On my website, you can always send an email, but the easiest and fastest way I find is through Facebook and Instagram.
Jill: So you can always send me a message on Instagram. @_Jill_Featherstone.
Rosie: Okay. @_Jill_Featherstone on Instagram. Okay. And we will have all this too. Don't worry if you missed it as you're listening. We will have all of this in the show notes. So feel free to go to my website, which is changinglenses.ca and we'll have the links to that. Jill, I know will have links on her website jillfeatherstone.com. All of this information will be there. So never fear, you're going to be able to get in touch with Jill and just learn more about your wonderful knowledge, your wonderful work.
And Jill, thank you so much, it's my honor to have you on this podcast to share your intimate story. To give hope to people with all that you've done and all that you continue to do to support your community and our larger society.
Congratulations on the book. It's wonderful. I really do hope a lot of people read it and just understand it and also get you invited to their classroom so that you can talk about it and educate more people. I love everything you're doing and I want to encourage and affirm you. You are worthy. You are beautiful. You're a wonderful person. You're kind, thank you for blessing us with your presence and your gifts and your book and your words and your wonder. Loved it. Loved having you here today. Thank you for coming.
Jill: Thank you so much. I'm so grateful that I have this opportunity and to share this space with you and with everybody that's listening and you know, like you being in Toronto and stuff, you don't often get a glimpse of what life is on the reserve and what life is like in an Indigenous community and stuff. So I'm just really happy that I was able to give people a little bit of a background and hopefully pique their interest a little bit. And maybe people will want to learn a little bit more and maybe visit an Indigenous community or a reservation if they haven't yet.
Jill: And just kind of see what it's like and try out some of the good food. Some of the moose meat and bannock and all of the fish and stuff.
Rosie: Okay. Jill, don't tempt me to travel when I can't travel right now during COVID. I'm one of those people who have not had the pleasure of visiting a reserve. I also don't want to be like, oh, let's visit a reserve like it's a zoo, right? Like that's not what it should be for either. So thank you for your gracious hosting and invitation. I would love to do that and hope to actually travel to see you someday in person instead of just over screen.
Jill: One of these days, we'll plan to be at the same event together.
Rosie: Yes. Yes.
Jill: Try some of each other's traditional foods.
Rosie: Yes. What a brilliant idea. I love that. Yes. Thank you again, Jill. And if you liked this podcast, I hope you enjoyed hearing from Jill, please subscribe. It's available on all your favorite podcast platforms.
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Rosie: Thanks for joining us! I hope we helped to change your lens, and expand your worldview. And if you want to talk about today’s episode with a safe community, or ask me questions directly, please join our Changing Lenses Facebook Group – the link is in the shownotes. This episode was produced and hosted by me, with associate production by William Loo, and post-production by Cue9. Until next time, I’m Rosie Yeung, your guide to Changing Lenses.
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