If you’re a Native woman in Montreal and you’re having trouble coping with life in the big city, you’ve got a friend in Nakuset.
Working out of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, Nakuset, SO, is probably the city’s first Native outreach worker.
Her job is to help Native women who earn less than $17,000 with day-to-day problems like finding an apartment or life’s bigger problems, like planning your future.
“If it’s a real emergency, I’ll drop everything and see them,” she says.
Nakuset, a Plains Cree from Thompson, Man., earned a BA in human relations at Concordia University and worked as a counselor at the women’s shelter for two years.
But only as an outreach worker has she had a chance to visit clients in their homes. Her work is funded by Human Resources Development Canada, and is independent of the shelter.
Nakuset has 15 clients and has been working as an outreach worker since February. Her project expires at the end of June, but she hopes it will be renewed.
She can help women who have left the shelter or haven’t gone there yet.
“I can develop a healing plan for them, set people up with educational opportunities, help with welfare or translation.
“I can take women to the hospital or help them do their taxes. I can go to court with them or take them shopping.”
Nakuset says the service is needed because Native people often don’t have an easy time accessing basic services in Montreal.
“It can be really hard because of the racism in Montreal,” she said.
She also wants to start helping clients deal with youth protection authorities. She wants to look into whether they are too quick to remove kids from Native parents.
This is an issue especially important to Nakuset, who herself was adopted at age 3 by a Jewish family in Montreal. She learned to speak Hebrew, but not Cree.
Nakuset says her work is highly rewarding. “One client really didn’t know what she was going to do in life. She saw no future and was looking down on herself,” she said.
Nakuset said she helped the woman make a healing plan and the woman turned her life around. “She’s totally changed. She’ll leave a message on my phone and she’s totally enthusiastic. They call me an angel sometimes.”
Nakuset said she’s gotten a lot of support from Montreal’s First Nations community. The Native Friendship Centre has let her hold workshops for clients on a range of topics.
One of the regular speakers is Geraldine Standup, an Elder from Kahnawake. Standup shares the wisdom of her life experiences and also meets one-on-one with clients to talk.
The most satisfying part of her job, says Nakuset, is “showing them what they can do. I really want to strengthen these women and show them what they can do with life.”
Nakuset can be reached at (514) 808-3818.