Reclaiming Identity: Finding Belonging, Empowerment and Healing

I always questioned exactly where I would find belonging. In my early twenties, I left my hometown and headed to the big city (Regina) for university. These were some of the most challenging and transformative years of my life. As I reflect on my past, I recognize the compassion my younger self deserves. Based on my lived experiences, I would now turn to my younger self and tell her: you are human, and no matter how hard you try, you are not exempt from the human experience. I would also tell her: you will find the spaces you belong in, despite how alone and isolated you may feel.

It was in my final year of the Indigenous Social Work program at the First Nations University of Canada that I was able to attend the required culture camp. Over two weeks of culture camp, Indigenous social work students gain experiential knowledge through living off the land, in community, and engaging in ceremony and tradition with elders and knowledge keepers. I remember this being a pivotal moment for my healing journey. For the first time, I was allowed to take up space; this is where my decolonizing journey emerged, and my spirit awoke. During culture camp I learned how to bead. I remember my mind quieting as I picked up each bead, one at a time. I created my own safe space within my mind, while also reclaiming my identity and traditions. Beading remains one of my most effective coping skills. After culture camp, I returned to the city and joined a beading circle full of Kohkoms and Aunties. This space, just like culture camp, made me feel more supported and safer. I had a vision to incorporate creative expression, paired with Indigenous culture, into my work as an Indigenous social worker.

When I began working at USask, I leaned into my vision and started “Beading with Auntie”. My hope is to support our Indigenous students, always reminding them: Auntie is here for you. Auntie loves you. And we are going to figure it out together.. I believe that the person I am today, and what I am doing here, is who and what I needed in the most vulnerable times in my life. I needed safe and supportive spaces to be human, rather than judgement or shaming. 

I am grateful for what has transpired since I have started developing this unique role at USask. In this role, my desire to engage in lifelong learning is validated. It has been incredible to see the transformative nature of a beading circle during “Beading with Auntie”.  Each student works together towards building and maintaining this protected, Indigenous space. In this sacred space, we support each other in community, admiring each of our gifts, not to mention the big belly laughs. It has been a dream come true to bring the component of creative expression to my therapeutic work, together with Indigenous students. Today, we celebrate while walking through the doors our ancestors opened for us. 


Jusinda Rosenkerr 


Bio – Jusinda Rosenkerr (she/her)

Jusinda was born and raised in Northwest Saskatchewan. She is a citizen of Métis Nation Saskatchewan, and now lives in Saskatoon. Jusinda is currently the Indigenous Wellness Counsellor at the University of Saskatchewan. She takes part in ongoing development of this unique and evolving role, offering mentorship and therapeutic one-to-one sessions to Indigenous USASK students. She also facilitates cultural programming opportunities, such as beading circles, throughout the year. As the role evolves, Jusinda continues to listen and respond to the unique mental health needs of Indigenous students. 

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