Rayne Tarasiuk: First Nations Government Intern
Stepping into the unknown is not always a bad thing — for Rayne Tarasiuk she made the leap not once, but twice.
From Kenya to Haida Gwaii, Tarasiuk has never been afraid to venture to places she has never been. After high school, she eagerly wanted to find adventure outside of her hometown of Mission, B.C. Tarasiuk didn’t know what was going to be in front of her when she stepped foot in Kitale, Kenya, but she wanted to find out.
“I felt like I needed to get out of this bubble,” said Tarasiuk. “I thought to myself ‘where is the furthest place I can get to?’ and just ended up making a leap and going to Kenya.”
In Kitale, Tarasiuk worked as a caregiver with the Sister Freda’s Medical Centre working with orphaned children living with HIV. There she worked with a little boy named Moses, who would be her reason for making this journey.
“I primary role was to just hang out with Moses every day,” she said. “Just being able to show another human being the love they needed was an amazing feeling. I am so glad I was able to have this formative experience in my life.”
After spending time away from home, Tarasiuk returned to Canada with ambitions of higher education. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia and recently completed her Master’s Degree in Gender, Environmental Decision-Making and Sustainability at Royal Roads University.
Like many other young graduates, Tarasiuk looked to find experience in her chosen field. She was optimistic about using some of her education in a Local Government Internship position through Northern Development. Unfortunately the position had been filled prior to her application. However, as luck would have it, the First Nations Government Internship had just been made available. She took the difficult leap once again. This time she was headed to Haida Gwaii, B.C.
“It was the hardest thing I have had to do in my whole life,” she said. “In four days, I had to move our whole house to a place I had never been. We didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a place to live. But the community was so friendly and wonderful, plus it is one of the most beautiful places to be in, so that made the whole experience worth it.”
The First Nations Government Internship program would allow Tarasiuk to utilize her experience and education almost directly. Tarasiuk’s responsibilities consist of working with band policy revision and on council projects. Through the Skidegate Band Council, her main project involves working on the Women’s Dialogue Session program run by the council. These dialogue sessions are an opportunity for all women living on Haida Gwaii to come together and explore their roles, identify common challenges, build relationships, engage in healing, and create a framework for a positive change.
“When I first started at the position this was just a seed of an idea,” said Tarasiuk. “Now the project has become quite large and it needs a lot of nourishing. It’s been amazing being able to be part of this project and to see it grow.”
The First Nations Government Internship program, which is funded through a partnership between Northern Development and the Department of Indigenous Services Canada, provides funding for central and northern First Nations governments or tribal councils to host and mentor an intern for a 12-month period. The program provides participants insight into the wide range of rewarding careers available within First Nations governments.
This program has allowed Tarasiuk to follow her passion of promoting environmental sustainability and equality while working with First Nations bands and communities.
“I truly believe in living harmoniously with the environment and with each other,” she said. “I feel like this internship has given me the opportunities and the tools needed to make massive and long-lasting positive changes. I am trying to learn new skills as I go along to be a better communicator and my current position has allowed me to gain direct experience in organizing and doing community-related and community-led projects.”
Being of Irish and Croatian descent, Tarasiuk feels that this internship has been a very special experience for her in working within a First Nations community without having an indigenous background. Having worked with the Ktunaxa and Sinixt First Nations during her studies, she was able to apply that experience here and continue to learn more about collaboration.
“This has been a very positive experience for me,” said Tarasiuk. “Much of my internship has been about learning to work respectfully and conducting mutual collaboration as someone who does not have a First Nations background. It’s about how, as a Canadian, I can be a healthy, respectful ally of indigenous communities in Canada.”
After spending the last seven months in Haida Gwaii, Tarasiuk is looking forward to the future and what doors the internship might open for her.
“I am excited to see what is out there for me,” she said. “This has been an absolutely amazing experience for me. Hopefully the next chapter with be just as great.”
Whatever the case may be you can be sure that she won’t be afraid to embark on another new adventure — through rain or shine.