FIRST PERSON | I rejected my Indigenous culture in the big city. Going home made me fall in love with it again | CBC Radio


This First Person column is the experience of De Vine Thomas, a 17-year-old student from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ

Note: this column discusses bullying, including the use of an anti-Indigenous slur. 

I am a 17-year-old from Peguis First Nation, a large community of mostly Ojibway and Cree people that’s situated nearly 200 kilometres north of Winnipeg. 

I will graduate from Peguis Central School in spring 2023. Our upcoming grad is a big deal. Coming through the pandemic, Peguis has experienced terrible flooding most of this year. Our high school years have been constantly disrupted. Now, the end is almost here and it’s time to think about my future after high school. 

Growing up, I used to think that I would be something like a chef or a carpenter. I liked to cook and bake for my family, and my grandfather was a carpenter. My real joy, however, came from something my grandmother taught me: sewing. It’s always fun giving makeovers to my siblings and putting outfits together.

A girl wears a fur-lined suit jacket, hat, bolero beaded tie and beaded earrings.
De Vine Thomas accompanied her sister to her graduation in 2021 in a self-styled suit. (Penny Thomas)

I first considered fashion as a future career in middle school when I changed schools. We moved from Peguis to a few different cities for my parents’ work or their post-secondary education. Initially, I was excited about the new faces and changes of being at a city school!

Unfortunately, I experienced racism for the first time at these schools. I was called many things, but what most sticks out was being called a savage for talking about my culture. That made me embarrassed. I no longer knew who I wanted to be anymore. It really affected me and I carried a lot of shame. Soon I began to reject my culture. I didn’t want to go medicine picking or talk about anything that had to do with being First Nations. 

My parents recognized this identity confusion and decided to move our family back home to Peguis. I was 13 when we got back to the community I’d grown up in. Then an amazing thing happened: I started to fall in love with my culture again. I no longer felt out of place.

I was relieved to be among people like me. I love the sense of community and unity we have here. My shame slowly disintegrated when I saw others around me who are so proud of our culture and not embarrassed by it. This newfound appreciation is what makes me want to share my creativity with the world. It’s important to me that I incorporate this positive energy into my future designs.

Peguis has inspired the way I will approach fashion design. We are taught to appreciate and respect Mother Nature and not to litter. That’s why sustainability is important to me. I know fashion is one of the big contributors to climate change. My clothes will include Peguis motifs and beadwork while also being sustainable, because I want to ensure that nothing goes to waste when I make a garment.

To become a fashion designer, I want to go to school in a fashion hub like New York City or Toronto. That is a big step. People ask me why I don’t stay nearby and go to school somewhere closer, especially since my previous experience of leaving my community wasn’t a positive one. 

But accomplishing my dream requires starting with the best fashion design programs and leaving my larger Peguis family. It’s scary. I fear failing and not being able to make it out there. It’s intimidating to think of being in a whole new environment from what I am used to, away from my family and friends who embrace our beautiful culture. Despite wanting to travel and experience the world, I sometimes think back to how I felt when those racist comments were made.

A group of smiling high school students with their arms around each other.
De Vine Thomas, second from left, with her friends: Julie-Ann McCorrister, Lizzy Thomas and Shaniece Stevenson. (Bridget Forbes/CBC)

But the good thing about fear is it motivates me to try harder —not just in school but in my personal life as well. Although I am afraid of again experiencing racism outside Peguis, I’m different now. I have more confidence in who I am — both in my Indigeneity and the rest of me, which are inseparable. 

I know that my community will support me, so I am ready to face whatever is out there. Maybe some people think my dream is too big because I am from a reserve. Maybe they see my Indigeneity as a barrier, but I know it is a strength. I want to bring  the representation of my culture that I don’t often see into the fashion industry and the media.

I am sure of what I want for my future and I know what it is going to take for me to get there. I am currently working on my portfolio to apply to fashion schools and I can’t wait to see where it’s going to take me, whether Toronto, New York, Paris or beyond!

 De Vine Thomas is Ojibwe-Cree, 17, and still learning her native language. She lives in Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. 
[ad_2] File source
Washington News Post Latest Breaking News, Headlines
Washington News Post|| World News||USA News||Washington||
Celebrity News||Movie Review

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button