Angela Recollet clearly remembers the first time she encountered racism. It happened while she was a grade four student at Wembley Public School in Sudbury.

"I couldn't quite understand it," she said. "We had these textbooks. I saw myself reflected in these books [as it] was celebrating our pow-wows, our gatherings."

Recollet says she quickly pointed out that her family takes part in gatherings.

"I was quickly ridiculed, called a squaw, a dirty Indian" she said.

"I remember going home and telling my mom 'I don't want to be an Indian anymore'."

Her mother had a simple, but powerful response.

"She said 'You can't change who you are. This is who you are and be proud of who you are',"

"That was the turning point where I quickly started realizing that we have to uphold that honour and integrity of who we are and where we come from," Recollet said.

Repeating history

Recollet said racism against Indigenous people still happens today. Her daughter Dakota came home from daycare, and recalled an experience similar to what Recollet had in elementary school.

"I was like, wow, can't they come up with anything new?"

Recollet says she told her daughter the same thing her mother told her.

"When you look at my children, I have such pride for their accomplishments."

"Dakota went on to be one of the youth that were actively involved in the promotion of I am Aboriginal for the Rainbow District School Board. She really walks with that pride and integrity of who we are as Anishinabe people," Recollet said.

Highlighting success

Recollet worked at Laurentian University for several years before eventually becoming the executive director of the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre. When she started there, 17 staff worked at the facility. Eight years later, 57 people are employed there.

"We deliver holistic primary care that's coupled with traditional knowledge."

Recollet said she is proud of the programs the centre offers Indigenous people in the Sudbury area, and hopes the centre will continue to grow.

"I know there's still much disparity in our communities but there's far more hope and far more success," she said.

"I think often times we focus on the disparities, when we really need to highlight the successes in our communities."