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Interview With Naomi Carriere

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER/SPRING 1999      v29 n01 p19  
Naomi Carriere
Naomi Carriere
The following human interest article looks at the aspirations of a young Aboriginal woman who has taken the challenge to pursue a field of expertise unexplored by Aboriginal youth. Naomi Carriere hails from the small northern community of Cumberland House. Her upbringing and passion for animals and nature has provided her with an innate desire to pursue a career in the sciences. She recognizes that there are not too many Aboriginal peoples in this field of expertise and this is what the 22-year-old, single mother would like to see change.

Her father, she says, was the major influence in her life as he taught her to take on responsibilities that a young girl would not typically assume. She supposes the reason could be that she is the eldest of her two younger siblings. Growing up, Naomi would assist her father in the everyday occurrences of their home life. Her father, a commercial fisherman, trapper, hunter, wild rice harvester and seasonal guide, entrusted Naomi to caring for a kennel full of dogs. Her ability to manage the kennel provided her with the eventual expertise to administer shots to the dogs if they became ill. She would often be called to assist people in the community to care for their dogs, an unlikely reputation for a young girl.

Interestingly, her parents encouraged her to become actively involved in a variety of traditional sports. She would often be seen trudging roadside with her dogs practising for the next dog sled competition. In the summer season canoeing, hunting and fishing would be the choice sports. She views each experience as a means to meet interesting people. Competition, she says, is only one part of the whole picture. She recalls going on a bear hunting expedition with her father and brother. Instead of packing a rifle like her brother, she armed herself with technology - a camcorder.

They never actually shot the bear that came and went; instead she was more enamored at the beauty of her surroundings. She owes this experience as the pivotal moment where she knew that studying veterinary medicine would be the ideal career. Her aspirations took her to the University of Saskatchewan where she fully intended to study veterinary medicine but said she became discouraged by a colleague's attitude towards Aboriginal peoples in general. However, she did find the support she needed from what she calls the "right people" to continue her studies in a field near that of her passion - biology. Naomi is near the completion of her studies; wanting to encourage other students and with the help of supportive colleagues, she is involved in creating a mentor group. The group is designed to attract more Aboriginal peoples to the sciences and support them as they continue their studies. Naomi often expresses her longing to see more Aboriginal people getting interested in any science field, and this motivates her continual involvement in establishing this mentor group.

In addition to what seems to be a full life for such a young woman, she takes every opportunity to attend local environmental meetings and develop her knowledge that will benefit Aboriginal people in the future. Recent endeavors have allowed her to execute a


Interview With Naomi Carriere

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER/SPRING 1999      v29 n01 p20  
wolf population study in the Cumberland House area. The results of the findings have not yet been published, but her main concern is that this information will be used to explore the number of possible reasons to the decline of the moose population in that area. She states, "I'm an advocate for the animals and the focus is not political." She further believes that her identity and upbringing have provided her with the knowledge one needs to find success in the sciences, especially since she has lived much of her life in proximity to nature. She believes that if students understand that gaining knowledge is not only attained through literature, but through the concrete experience of actually being out in natural surroundings, then studying biology can be appealing, exciting and interesting. Furthermore, combining Aboriginal knowledge of the land and Western science - harnessing the information - can greatly increase one's understanding of what needs to be accomplished in terms of preserving traditional lifestyles.

Naomi's long-term goal is to work for an Aboriginal group to do population studies, and more importantly, find work closer to home. Her passion for biology is apparent and although she is uncertain of her activities in the years to follow, she knows that whatever she does it will make a difference. Just as she credits her parents for influencing her chosen career, she is thankful for all the encouragement she has received from colleagues and former high school teacher, Tony Stewart. But for now, all she wants to do is graduate and take care of her son.