Provide a brief introduction about yourself.
My name is Stephen Edwards. My Indian name is Sakihpihkaykapawo and my clan is Wapihzehshih. I reside in Dryden. I'm originally from Lake Manitoba First Nation in Manitoba. I speak Saulteaux fluently.
What does your daily job entail?
I’ve been with Nodin Child Family Interventions Services for over nineteen years. I started as a frontline Mental Health Counsellor for eight years, and a clinical supervisor for about eleven years now. I supervise five counsellors that travelled to the north. We service 33 First Nations communities which are in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory, treaty nine area north of Sioux Lookout.
I find there are many challenges in the work we do, and this work is also very rewarding. The key to being a supervisor is if you can support your staff in many different ways, they will accomplish what's required. Supporting my frontline staff on a daily basis is important. I support them. I mentor them.
All of our counsellors are well educated in the social work field. Making sure that we are doing the best we can in servicing the communities that we serve, I also look at the cultural component when we provide services to the northern communities and also look at the traditions of those communities.
How did you get to where you are today?
I graduated from high school in 1983. I tried college in Brandon, Manitoba, but that didn't work out for me. I was only there for about a month then I quit. The reason for that was I wasn't prepared for that program that I registered for. I decided to try Brandon University and I was able to finish my Bachelor of Arts, the general three-year program in 1991. And in 1992, I finished my four-year Bachelor of Arts advanced and the Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Manitoba in 1995. I was also working full time for six months while I was in school. The struggle is making sacrifices when you have to leave home.
Now I am married to an amazing woman. Her name is Cheryl. We've been married 23 years. She has been my main support and also, she's taught me how to grow within myself and to believe in what I do in my work. We have a daughter who graduated last year. She finished her Masters in Business at Lakehead University.
What got you interested in your chosen career?
I like helping people. When I decided to go into the Bachelor of Social Work program at the University of Manitoba, all I knew was I wanted to help people. At that time I was already working in Winnipeg, Manitoba, supporting First Nations people.
What has motivated you?
My motivation came from my immediate family. I come from a very well educated family. I had eight sisters, five are still here and three brothers, one still here. Most of my siblings are teachers. My younger sister is in the social work field as well. Two of my other siblings are in social work as well, and they specialize in corrections.
I remember my mother used to stress when we were younger that she wanted us to finish high school. For me, it was a struggle. I never liked school. My dad used to be a school bus driver for the community, so I would lock the bus door on him, and he would have to come in from the back door.
My parents passed away when I was about 11 years old. My grandmother who lived to be 93 years old, she kind of took over the parental role when our parents passed away at an early age. So, it was important for me to continue my education while my grandmother was alive.
I realized after so many years that education was the key to getting somewhere with your life. In order to succeed in life, education was important. I wouldn't be here if I didn't finish high school and post-secondary education. It was the only way to make a living, but also do well for yourself and provide for your family.
How do you keep developing your skills?
I educate myself by attending training opportunities as they come up. I familiarize myself with what's happening in the world, but also how I can be more of an effective supervisor with my frontline staff. It's always a challenge, but I think that's the most important thing you can do as a supervisor is to support your frontline staff.
Any health or physical requirements in your career?
Yes, there are. Self-care is important in the social work field. You really need to take care of yourself in order to be a positive role model for your staff, but also to be able to do well in different aspects of your life.
What kind of things do you do to take care of yourself?
I've been trying different things out such as watching a good movie and going for walks. I enjoy cooking. I learned to cook very well. One of the things I enjoy recently is trying to find diabetic recipes for myself. I'm trying to stay away from bad food. Spending time with our little fur babies is also therapeutic for me.
What financial opportunities did you use to help you with your education and what was the process?
When I was in post-secondary school I was a sponsored student. Coming from Manitoba, we had Interlake Tribal Council that sponsored the Interlake reserves. So, I was a sponsored student when I went to university. I think right now most of the First Nations communities in Manitoba have taken their own education program. So, they're responsible for their high school students now.
What do you still hope to achieve?
I thought of the Master's program many times. I haven't pursued it. I'm really content with what I've achieved so far. I don't know what the future holds. Time will tell, but right now I'm okay.
What would you like to share with the youth reading this?
There's a lot of sacrifices that we have to make when we leave our communities to further our education.
I left home when I was 17 years old. I met a lot of people during my journey of going to school and some of them were very positive experiences. People that will guide and support us, also influence us in different ways. That gave me some hope.
Sometimes we run into a lot of racism when we leave our communities. I certainly have, but at the same time, I've learned a lot about myself as a First Nations person. Never forget who you are as a First Nations person. Not only will it make us grow, but also it will make us stronger in what we set ourselves out to do. We need to focus on our identity. Language and our traditions are very important. Spend time with elders. Elders gave me a lot of strength and courage.