College of New Caledonia: Wearing Your Button Blanket with Pride
Education is a journey. For some, it’s a journey to discover who they will become. For others, such as College of New Caledonia (CNC) alumni Carrie Darcey Davis, it has also been a journey to discover who she already is.
Growing up, Carrie wasn’t surrounded by the language, culture or traditions of her Aboriginal heritage. Her experience at post-secondary, however, set her on a journey of self-discovery.
“CNC was the last place I thought I would begin to discover my cultural roots,” she said.
Carrie moved from Terrace to Prince George eight years ago for her daughter’s benefit, who was born with a severe medical condition in 2009. Though getting a post-secondary education was a goal she had in mind, Carrie put it on hold so she could be there for her children.
By the time both her children entered school, however, Carrie realized she was working really hard to barely make ends meet.
“Life wasn’t going the way I had expected,” she said. “I finally had a discussion with my husband about going back to school and it grew from there.”
Carrie researched her options and was drawn to CNC’s Social Service Workers University Transfer diploma.
Raised in a small community, she appreciated being able to get her start at the college before heading up the hill to the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).
“I still thought CNC was the biggest school I was ever going to go to,” she said. “It was very overwhelming for me.”
That feeling didn’t last long as Carrie soon found herself connecting with fellow students in her cohort. The Aboriginal Resource Centre (ARC) also became a place of immense cultural support as she discovered more about herself through the college’s Aboriginal Studies programs.
“I learned to embrace who I am and incorporate that into every ounce of my being,” Carrie said. “Whether it’s parenting, studying or working, I learned the importance of Indigenizing my process.”
This two year experience at CNC led Carrie to ask her grandmother for help creating a traditional button blanket she could wear as she walked across the floor at her convocation. Throughout that process, she was surrounded by her grandmother’s wealth of traditional knowledge. Her grandmother told her about the two lenses, one Indigenous and one westernized, of which she sees the world through.
“My job today is knowing how to put those two lenses together so we can coexist,” she said.
The blanket is her story. Its designs are tailored specifically to Carrie’s life and in that regard, she said the blanket is not finished.
“I don’t know if it will ever really be finished,” Carrie said. “As I go through my life, I can add to it and adjust it. I can continue to grow the story. One day, I hope to be able to pass that blanket onto my children.”
Carrie not only walked across the stage wearing her traditional button blanket, but also addressed to her 250 fellow graduates as one of the ceremony’s keynote student speakers.
Though being a mature student at CNC was overwhelming at times, she has continued on to UNBC and even returned to the College for her social work practicum.
“I don’t think it’s ever too late, especially for Indigenous students,” Carrie said. “It’s so important to have educated Indigenous leaders in our community. That’s the only way I feel we are going to be able to build capacity in our people.”