'I felt like I can't touch anything — he's watching me': Stories of racial discrimination in Saskatchewan

Sabrina Cote-Brooks, an arts and crafts vendor, tells CBC Radio about her experience with racism in Saskatchewan, as part of an ongoing series on the matter.

Sabrina Cote-Brooks is member of the Cote First Nation but lives in Regina

Sabrina Cote-Brooks was shopping a local craft store when she noticed security following her. Pictured above, she stands at the booth where she sells handmade Indigenous-styled accessories. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC News)

For both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, a powwow is a great way to explore Indigenous culture and tradition.

Dancers are decked out in their traditional regalia during proceedings, moving rhythmically to the beat of the drum. An added bonus to the experience are numerous craft and clothing vendors sitting at tables selling handmade items such as jewelry and moccasins.

Sabrina Cote-Brooks is an educational worker within the public school system during the week — but she sells her handmade items on weekends during powwow season.

"I make my own jewelry," said Cote-Brooks, standing outside of the First Nations University of Canada powwow earlier this month.

Cote-Brooks is a member of the Cote First Nation in Treaty 4 territory but lives in Regina. 

It was only a few weeks ago when she encountered a situation which placed her in the centre of discrimination, while she was at an arts and craft store.

I felt like I can't touch anything — he's watching me. I was just uncomfortable.- Sabrina Cote-Brooks

"I'm the type who likes to touch things and look at them. I started noticing this security guy was right there," Cote-Brooks said.

"Every time I was down an aisle, he's right there looking at me. I was like, 'OK, I never noticed security here before and he's only following me.' So I started going all over the place to see if he was only following me."

Cote-Brooks said that she didn't think twice about security at a craft store but once she realized she was the target of a watchful eye, her outlook changed.

"I felt like I can't touch anything — he's watching me. I was just uncomfortable," she said. 

Cote-Brooks is well aware of the types of racial discrimination Indigenous kids may face in their day-to-day lives. As a mother, she says it's important for her to educate her children about racism awareness.

"It's important because they need to know how society might view them," said Cote-Brooks."That they might be stereotyped, some people might think of them a certain way because of their culture or the way the look."

Looking to the future, Cote-Brooks said she hopes the world can be a better place for Indigenous people.

"Kids don't grow up being racist or with discrimination, it's taught to them somehow," Cote-Brooks explained. 

"So, I just hope that things change and the new generation [won't] have to experience what we experienced ... Canada's a very open place we should be celebrating everyone's history and culture."   

*Brad Bellegarde reports for CBC Saskatchewan. This week, CBC Radio's Morning Edition is sharing stories of discrimination from Saskatchewan residents. On Thursday, we will hear a Sudanese refugee discuss his experiences riding public transit in Regina.