Bren Little Light's biggest pet peeve: Losing Indigenous relations jobs to non-Indigenous men
Little Light, who runs her own consultancy firm doing Indigenous relations work, shares her experiences
Bren Little Light says she has applied to more than 100 jobs in the oil and gas sector, landing multiple first and second interviews, only to lose out to non-Indigenous men for the roles of Indigenous relations liaison.
"I think it's systemic barriers," says the 54-year-old woman from Siksika First Nation.
"They go into these communities and say we want to work with you to land projects and will hire First Nations … but I don't see them hiring First Nations."
"It's probably one of my biggest pet peeves," she said. "I get really frustrated because I have the background, the education, and I have the connections."
- CBC Alberta is publishing personal stories about racial inequality ahead of a public forum called We Need to Talk on Thursday, June 25
- Got a story to share? Email email@example.com
Little Light currently runs her own consultancy firm doing aboriginal relations work for various local companies and organizations. She shared her story with CBC Alberta ahead of its public forum on racism on June 25.
"I wear two sets of moccasins," explained Little Light. "With my First Nations moccasins, I explain [to First Nations] what they can negotiate. With my corporate moccasins, I go into the corporate world and explain the culture, traditions and how to go in front of leadership … It's a passion of mine."
Sixties Scoop survivor
She says she disagrees with people who claim there is no systemic racism in Canada because she has lived it all her life.
As a Sixties Scoop survivor, she was one of thousands of Indigenous children across Canada systematically removed from their homes and put up for adoption by child welfare authorities from 1965 well into the '80s.
Little Light was two-years-old when she was separated from her mother, a residential school survivor, and put into foster care. Then at the age of nine, she and her older brother were adopted by a non-Indigenous family who were "very religious and very strict" and wouldn't allow her to learn anything about her culture.
As a young adult, she returned to the Siksika First Nation, east of Calgary, to reconnect with her culture and her family.
"It was culture shock but it was very welcoming," said Little Light. "I finally found my roots and found out who I was. I love Siksika. I'm very proud of the Blackfoot Confederacy."
She has taken up traditional dancing at pow wows and regularly advocates and fundraises for the Siksika community.
Despite facing closed doors in the oil patch, Little Light is not giving up.
"I'm going to keep going," she said. "I don't like it when the answer is no. It fires me up."
The fire is fuelled by a comment made about her by a teacher back in fourth grade.
"The teacher said to my dad 'they're Indians. They're not going to amount to anything,'" said Little Light. "I remember it perfectly. I strive to prove her wrong ... I work harder because I don't want to look like the token Indian."
She says she hopes one day one of the corporations will reach out and say they need her.
"As a Sixties Scoop survivor, we were silent for so many years," said Little Light. "I want First Nations to be heard when they're in negotiations with [the oil and gas] industry ... I want to make sure they get a good deal."
Join CBC Alberta for a personal and in-depth discussion about systemic racism, We Need to Talk, on Thursday, June 25, at 6:30 p.m. MT. Join CBC hosts Sandra Batson and Tanara McLean for a free, public forum discussion that shines a light on systemic racism in the province through the stories of people who have experienced it firsthand, with an aim to put forward potential solutions, concrete actions and examples of success.
Panellists will include:
- Adora Nwofor, Calgary comedian and activist.
- David Este, professor of social work, University of Calgary.
- Ryan Holtz, Edmonton podcaster and marketing expert.
- Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse, executive director of Natamoowin, Yellowhead Indigenous Education Foundation.
- Spirit River Striped Wolf, president of Mount Royal University students association.
With special performances from:
- Alanna Bluebird-Onespot, poet, Tsuut'ina Nation.
- Andrew Parker, Edmonton teacher.
Have a personal story to share about your experience with systemic racism? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.