By Jensen, Randy on June 20, 2020.
Tiffany Weasel Head knew something needed to change. With four children at home, Weasel Head and her husband, Casey, were struggling to make ends meet. That’s when she decided to go back to school.
“I told my husband, and he was totally supportive,” says Weasel Head, who enrolled at Lethbridge College after 10 years away from school. Casey quit his job to stay home with their two-year-old son, and with the support of their extended family, Weasel Head dove into her studies.
“The decision I made really brought us closer together as a family and really changed me as a person,” she says. Driving in each day from the Blood Reserve to the college, Weasel Head balanced schoolwork with her home life. She leaned on college resources such as the Learning CafŽ and the Indigenous Services team to help get up to speed with her academics, and she learned to thrive in the General Studies program.
“She’s inspiring to me because I’ve been there before,” says Marcia Black Water, Lethbridge College Indigenous student initiatives and community relations co-ordinator. “I came back to school as a mature student, I had kids at home and my family life, and I know how hard it is. Watching her and just wanting her to succeed and I have seen growth she’s had, that’s inspiring.”
Weasel Head joined the Indigenous Services team as a student ambassador and visited regularly with staff members and the college’s Blackfoot Kaahsinnooniks (Grandparents). In doing so, she learned lessons that not only helped her in the classroom, but also helped her better understand her own Blackfoot culture.
“It was great to hear their stories and see how hard they work and how inspirational they are,” she says. “I would ask, ‘what does this word mean?’ or ‘how do you say this word?’ And they’re so willing to help and they’re just so humble. They gave me that cultural identity and now I’m more proud to be Indigenous because we’re such strong people.”
After three years at the college, Weasel Head graduated this spring with a General Studies diploma, majoring in psychology and sociology. She plans to continue her education and pursue a career as a clinical psychologist. She eventually wants to open a practice at home on the Blood Reserve. Her experiences with the college’s Indigenous Services team and Kaahsinnooniks have helped to shape how she would serve those in her community.
“There’s a lot of children and adults there who have suffered from trauma and all these other things that come into play,” she says. She believes traditional ways of knowing can help heal those battling drug and alcohol addictions. “We can be very determined people but sometimes, telling people they should just pray and smudge really does help them.”
The COVID-19 pandemic meant Weasel Head wasn’t able to finish her college career with a traditional Convocation ceremony, but she still achieved what she set out to do three years earlier.
“As much as I wanted my kids to see me walk across the stage, I find that they see me totally different than a few years ago,” she says. “I’m just blessed to be in the position I am today.”