Hadeeh’/Hello, my name is Jeremy Belyea and I am Ned’u’ten Dakelh or Carrier from Lake Babine Nation. I hail from the Raven Clan and it is my great pleasure and honour to have this opportunity to introduce myself to you.
I am 203 years old (in dog years) and I am currently employed as a clinical counsellor by my band in beautiful Burns Lake, BC. It took a lot of walking and growing to get where I am today. I consider Victoria my home town but I had to leave there and ride a Grey-hound bus for 22 hours, 12 years ago, to turn my life around.
I dropped out of high school, at 16, because I was bored and thought I could take on the world. Long story short, the world won after only offering up a $6 an hour entry level job. After the crazy bus ride, going from urban Indian to rez Indian, I started making a habit of proving people wrong. I finished high school on the Honour Roll (which some said wouldn’t happen because I was too much of a lazy smartass), left my reserve to go to university (where people go to party, get bad grades then come back to the rez) and, while there, I managed to get two degrees, assisted in the development of a bi-cultural peer counselling program and won two elections to student council.
With the second win, I became the first Aboriginal president in the history of my university. One of the biggest reasons I ran for president was the general feeling amongst my Aboriginal peers that the university and student council did not listen to Aboriginal concerns and that it was impossible for one of “us” to win a seat on the executive. Wrong! It was just a job for someone awesome and incredibly stubborn.
Within a year, I developed the foundation for a new student centre, brought a universal bus pass program back to life, and did a lot of other great stuff no one thought possible. Today, I have a Bachelor’s degree in First Nations studies, with a minor in political science, and a Master’s degree in education (counselling).
I have licenses from the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association and my clinical designation from the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. When you add it all up, it makes my business cards chock full of acronyms.
I am pretty lonely in my field. I am one of a very small group of Aboriginal clinical counsellors in Canada. So, when I heard about Inclusion Works ‘09, I was thrilled at the opportunity to meet the other ninety-nine of Canada’s top Aboriginal post-secondary graduates! Unfortunately, I was not selected to attend. Which would be a bad way to end my story…
Some of my friends got the call up to the big league in early February and I was left riding the bench, until I received a phone call in March saying the council wanted me to attend! Woohoo! I no longer had to kidnap my buddy, Fabian, and pretend to be him so I could go! I attended and had the best time I have ever had at an event. Everything was top notch. Meeting grads from all over the country in so many different disciplines and educational backgrounds was incredible and eye opening. I cannot express how ‘awesome’ it was to experience all that Inclusion Works had to offer.
To say I was inspired would be putting it too lightly. I must have paid off the right people because I was invited to present to the Aboriginal Human Resource Council's Board of Directors meeting to provide insight and share my experience as an attendee. From there, we flew west to Alberta to attend an Aboriginal Young Entrepreneurs conference in Banff.
Riding the wave of invitations to stay at other beautiful historic Fairmont Hotels, I was invited, once again, to present, this time to the council’s champions, and then again as a keynote speaker at Inclusion Works ’10 in Toronto. I am not one to shy away from presenting so I jumped at both opportunities.
I have had to work very hard to get where I am today and I would not be as successful as I am without the love and support of my friends and family, but also because of the hard work and dedication of people working to create a better future for Aboriginal people in Canada.
The council is one of these dedicated groups, working hard to make the lives of Aboriginal people from coast to coast to coast better. They have assembled an exceptionally talented group of people, who are all worked hard to make Inclusion Works ‘10 a bigger success than the inaugural conference.
Attending the first Inclusion Works has opened up many doors for me, both personally and professionally. I am very grateful for that opportunity and even happier to help the council advance its goal of Aboriginal Inclusion in the national workforce!
Tebe’ Messi Cho / Thank you very much for reading,
Jeremy Belyea, M Ed, RCC C.C.C.