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Bridge Builders: Lucy Fowler combats Metis stereotypes

Lucy Fowler takes different approaches to combat stereotypes about her Metis heritage among the children and seniors she engages in her work.

'Take a pause, think about who you're talking to, and how you're going to reach them.'

Lucy Fowler, 26, works with the Metis Nation of Ontario to help Thunder Bay residents better understand Metis culture, heritage and identity. She says one stereotype she encounters is that all Aboriginal people are easily identifiable by their appearance. (Jody Porter/CBC)
We're getting ready for our CBC community forum on race relations in Thunder Bay by introducing you to some cross-cultural bridge builders in the city.We meet Lucy Fowler this morning, a young Metis woman. 4:06

Lucy Fowler takes different approaches to combat stereotypes about her Metis heritage among the children and seniors she engages in her work.

The 26-year-old works for the Metis Nation of Ontario's summer youth cultural program, going out to schools, festivals and retirement homes to "speak to people about who Metis people are, what we look like, that we're still around, that it's not just a fictional, historical kind of presence."

CBC Thunder Bay presents 'Building Bridges', a community forum on race relations, Oct. 1 at Confederation College. (Jody Porter/CBC)

Fowler said younger children aren't shy about "spouting stereotypes" about Aboriginal people.

"It can be difficult, but you just have to take a pause and think about who you're talking to and how you're going to reach them," Fowler said. "And try to keep your own feelings out of it, because it's not really conducive to changing someone's opinion if you jump down their throat and yell at them."

"Especially the little guys, they're just saying what they heard at home."

Seniors swayed by court decisions

Fowler said kids are usually most receptive to learning through play and cultural activities, but the seniors she talks to often change their views after being presented with facts and legal decisions about Metis identity and rights.

"A lot of the things [seniors] find acceptable to say or things that they've known through their lives are things that we don't accept now as being true," she said. "And then they're a lot more set in those opinions...so that takes a lot more patience."

Fowler said its "really rewarding" to see her work is helping change people's opinions, something she hopes will spread throughout the city.

Fowler is one member of CBC's panel of cross-cultural 'bridge builders' at the Building Bridges community forum on Oct. 1. Everyone is welcome to join the discussion, beginning at 7 p.m., at Confederation College.