Aboriginal Education Directorate

Janice Millar

December 2012

Janice Millar photo

  • Home Community:
    Fisher River First Nation
  • Cultural Identity:
    Métis
  • Position:
    Aboriginal Education Support Teacher
    (Inner City District).
  • Education/Training: Bachelor of Education,
    Post Baccalaureate in Counselling
  • Roles/Responsibilty:
    My job is to work with teachers and students to build a bridge of understanding between the stories of the students and the stories of the teachers.
    I also support the teachers to understand our history that was not written and help them to infuse our truths and perspectives into the curriculum and programs.
“The ways of “the Old People” have been my guide in life. I spent many years listening to their teaching through sharing their stories.”

I was born in Winnipeg MB to Mary Jane Bowers and Ernest Guilbault. My mother is from Fisher River First Nation MB and my father was from Fannystelle MB. I am the fourth daughter of five. My father was a proud Metis and my mother was Indian. They committed their lives to the cause of our people. They were instrumental in the development of the core organizations that were the foundation to many of the Aboriginal organizations that exist today.

We grew up watching them do so much for our people. We knew we had this in our blood. We would be the next generation to continue this work. When my father passed we asked, “Dad is there anything you want us to do?” His response was “Carry on the work we started”. We continue to do this for, our parents, our children and our grandchildren. Now, I am watching and guiding my children to continue this journey started by my parents. My hope is that by the time my grandchildren’s children come our Indigenous community will be healthy and free.

The ways of “the Old People” have been my guide in life. I spent many years listening to their teaching through sharing their stories. I loved listening to stories in the language even though I technically could not understand them. I knew my spirit was drawing strength from these stories because each time I heard them something inside me grew. I treasure these times and am lonely for them sometimes. But I always remind myself, that I was gifted to have heard them and witness their courage in a time when we as a people had been so silenced. My spirit grew and so I found my voice. I sound my voice now to connect our youth with the stories of our Old People. I try to honour their stories in the work that I do each day.

I am a mother of 5. I have four children who are now adults. They are 35, 34, 32, 29 and 13 years old.  I have two grandsons one 14 and the other 8 years old. I have a husband who has stood by me for 25 years (through it all). My family is the centre of my world. They come first and everything else comes next. My parents found this difficult to do sometimes, so this is a change I made for the next generation. My children grew up also hearing these stories and also honour them, by trying to use them as their guide in life. All of my family have and carry their traditional names proudly and they know when to use them and how to connect with our ancestral ways and draw strength from this life.  

I was a single parent with my adult children until 1992. We spent a lot of time together. We were often found in Roseau River First Nation with a family that adopted my children and me. I honour this family still today and I am forever thankful, because they took us in when it was hard to live by and practice our way of life. This is one of the beautiful things about our ancestral ways. We can adopt a family and honour that relationship. This brings a feeling of respect that maybe our own family may not have or are able to give, for reasons beyond our/their control. They were there to guide me in a way that was missing. I have always believed in our ancestral ways and they provided me and my children with teachings that I would use for the rest of my life.  This foundation has guided the work I do with students and teachers.

I am a teacher in Winnipeg School Division, Inner City District. I have worked in the Inner City since 1987. I was first asked to volunteer to work with young women at Aberdeen School. These young women wanted to learn about pow wow dancing and their identity as young aboriginal women. I did not know that this would lead me on a path that has taken me to where I am now.

I dropped out of school in grade nine. I left the world of who would tell me who and how I was, because I was Indian. I went on my own journey to find out who that was and what it meant to me. My mother did not always understand why this was so important to me, but now she does and takes time to share her stories with my children and grandson.  The stories told me about the beauty our people held in their spirit, but had been denied to be shared. The government had put so many policies in place to silence us that our Old People were shy to talk or maybe afraid. I did not know this at this time, which makes it more endearing to me for them taking this risk. I was not aware of the gift they gave me and the trust they had in me to share their stories.

I went on to be a teacher’s assistant and loved my job. I loved the students and sharing stories with them. I was encouraged to apply for university to become a teacher, because of the relationships I was able to build with them and other teachers.  I went on to get my degree. I now hold a Bachelor of Education and a Post Baccalaureate in Counselling. I started my post secondary education in May of 1988. I had met my husband the year before. We both had major changes in our careers and saw this as a positive note to draw strength from one another. I had a difficult time trusting anyone but my children and now I needed to grow and trust another person. I am so glad I did. I finished my studies in December of 1991 and started teaching as a substitute teacher in early 1992.

I was hired as a half time English Language Development teacher and Counsellor at RB Russell High School in the summer of 1992. I worked with students to build their skills and believe in themselves. I loved working at RB because I could relate to most of the students and what they were struggling with to be successful in school. Many were not successful in graduation standards, but I have been around long enough now to see that they have been successful in building their lives. I now have the honour to see them in places like the community either working or enrolled in post secondary institutions. This gives me great pride, especially the students who had been written off by standards of society or someone else’s’ judgement.

I now am an Aboriginal Education Support Teacher (Inner City District). My job is to work with teachers and students to build a bridge of understanding between the stories of the students and the stories of the teachers. When these stories are understood there is a relationship that is built. Many teachers do not understand how our students survive their experiences in life and many of our students have a difficult time trusting adults. I also support the teachers to understand our history that was not written and help them to infuse our truths and perspectives into the curriculum and programs.

In closing I love the work that I do, because I know that I am honouring our ancestors and our Indigenous way of life. I believe the students and teachers of today need to know our dark history. But more importantly our teachers and our students need to know that there is a new sun to guide us into a new future that has a place for all in honour and respect.

If I had believed the teacher that thought I was just an Indian, I may not have come down this path, but now I say Ekosi, for guiding me to a place of great pride in who I am and where I can guide  our children to be whoever they choose to be.