Saskatchewan·Future 40

Sask. Nakota martial artist Shana Pasapa launching self-defence course for women

Nakota martial artist, jiu-jitsu fighter and CBC Future 40 winner Shana Pasapa plans to launch a POW self-defence course this spring.

Sask. martial artist, jiu-jitsu fighter, Future 40 winner Shana Pasapa, draws strength from her Nakota roots

Shana Pasapa is a 2015 Future 40 winner. Now, the 28-year-old martial artist and mother of two is launching her own self-defence program for women. (submitted by Shana Pasapa)

Shana Pasapa's roots are strong.

Growing up on Saskatchewan's White Bear First Nation, she learned to harness her own power with the help of her family.

"When I was younger, I was kind of like a tom boy. I spent a lot of time with my uncle hunting in the bush," Pasapa said. "I didn't really get to hang out with my friends as much as I wanted to. Just because of the different environments on the reserve and my mom was really protective and just really wanted us to be careful."

Pasapa said her family's Nakota heritage fuelled her determination to succeed.

"My mom always taught me to be proud of who I am and remember where I come from," she said. "Just knowing the kind of people that we come from, the things we have done before, is really empowering."

Now, 28-year-old Pasapa is an accomplished mother of two. The award-winning martial artist and Jiu-Jitsu fighter said the lessons she learned as a child continue to strengthen her resolve.

Once you know something, you want to share what you know.- Shana Pasapa

"Seeing the things that my uncles taught me, and just wanting to be like them. Knowing that I can do, pretty much anything I put my mind to, my uncle, he did it in a cheeky way but he always let me know that I can do things," Pasapa said.

"Just hunting, for a girl, was different and he always let me know that I was fine. Even if somebody would say, 'girls aren't supposed to be hunting, that's a guy thing.' He'd just be like, 'no. She can take this moose, and she will feed you'. Kind of the way I was taught, just wanting to prove myself was part of it, knowing I can do the things that they can."

Taking on the future with a POW

Shana Pasapa with her boys. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

Currently, Pasapa is working on a plan to share her strength with other women through a holistic, self-defence training course.

"I have been working a lot on [developing] the techniques, studying different ways of defence and also studying the psychology of defence," she said.

Pasapa plans to teach the course to groups of 15 to 25 women in Sask. communities. The curriculum is still in the works, but Pasapa and her brother, Sheadan —a 21-year-old boxer with Kung Fu aspirations of his own— hope to launch the class in mid-March. 

While the fine tuning is in the works, Pasapa has already settled on a name for her self-defence training: Power Our Women. POW, for short.

Pasapa said the cases of hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women inspired the project.

"I feel like this is a tool that could help our women, just in case," she said

"Even with fitness, I like to tell people to look after their bodies, if you need to run, you'll be able to run."

Pasapa said she recently finished a self-defence certification course and plans to pair this education with her martial arts expertise and fighting training. 

"Once you know something, you want to share what you know," she said. "As an indigenous person, that is one of our roles —to share what we know. I feel like that is something I can do."

Winning Future 40 a boost

Nakota martial artist, Jiu-Jitsu and Future 40 winner, Shana Pasapa, plans to launch POW self-defence course this spring. 0:39

Pasapa said winning CBC's Future 40 contest in 2015 boosted her belief in her abilities.

"It did help me realize that I was on the right path," she said. "Any time you are recognized it lets you know you are doing something good and that is really important ... you need some kind of assurance some time that it is going the right way."

Pasapa said thanks to her Future 40 experience, she plans to nominate a few people this year.

"I encourage everyone to nominate somebody, because there are so many opportunities that will happen for that person...They can meet somebody that will [help] their business or their career, plus they get the recognition."

Nominations for CBC Future 40, 2016 are open now. Know someone, under 40, who is doing great things like Shana Pasapa? Nominate them here.