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My heart work: Jennefer Nepinak's story


As someone whose identity and experience is directly linked to virtually every facet that encompasses the Truth & Reconciliation process—from being born into The Indian Act, becoming a ward of the Child Welfare System and Residential School System, to losing my beloved mother to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Girls and Two Spirit (MMIWG2S) at the tender age of seven—I am no stranger to the impacts resulting from the various pieces of legislation and policies that have been (and continue to be) imposed upon our people. I have seen it, I have lived it and I continue to live it.

These are some of my many truths; they encompass it all—the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. They have all formed a part of who I am and I continue to learn how to embrace it all in a way that assists me in engaging in this conversation.

My roots

My traditional name is Animikiiashik (woman who flies amongst the Thunderbirds). My English name is Jennefer Nepinak and I am of the Bear Clan. I am a citizen of Minegoziibe Anishinaabe Nation, and a proud Anishinaabe Ikwe from Treaty 4 Territory located in what is now known in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

My beautiful mother Stella Nepinak birthed me into this physical world and I was raised by my amazing grandparents Joseph Nepinak and Harriet Nepinak. I am my mother’s daughter; my grandparents’ granddaughter and I am blessed to be a mother of two beautiful and amazing human beings. My son Brennan and my daughter Jordyn are my heart and soul. I have a beautiful extended family many of whom continue to reside in our traditional territory of Minegoziibe.

I have had and continue to have an extensive connection to the land, water and animals. Not only by virtue that these are life giving elements; I have always had a deep connection by way of my teachings. I see, feel and have an understanding of the importance of the interconnectedness of all these things. All of these things form my world view and personal constitution which ultimately dictates how I conduct myself in this physical world.

I have had the benefit to be deeply rooted in who I am and where I come from. It is these roots, that have enabled me to shift and learn within the western context. I have had the good fortune to be in a position to pursue higher education, something that my grandparents insisted upon. While they were not familiar with it, they were steadfast in their approach to ensuring that higher education was to be part of our plan. Because of this, and largely to honor my grandparents for what they provided me, I have worked to obtain three degrees since entering university.

More than that, I have connected with and created relationship with many people along the way both Indigenous and non-Indigenous that have helped me my on my life path. In many ways, my life has been a personal journey of truth and reconciliation.

For as long as I can recall, my worldview has always been driven with the desire to seek equity and fairness not only for myself but for my people and my community. I know now that this was simply a part of my collective lens as an Indigenous person. I am my community and my community is me.

The journey to Reconciliation starts with Truth

Why should I/we engage in truth and reconciliation dialogue? Simply because it is the right thing to do. As stated by the Supreme Court of Canada, we are all here to stay. The conversation continues to grow; we all have a role and we all have responsibility, for our children and our children’s children. Dialogue and relationships are key to supporting this process. We must be brave and create courageous spaces for us to speak and share our truths in an effort to find some common ground.

In order to know where we are going, we must know where we came from. I often say that we must know where we were, where we are, and where we need to go. The truth, the hard truths, need to be revealed, shared and considered for this journey to occur. We can’t talk about Reconciliation unless we are grounded in Truth. When we get to a place of knowing the hard truths it is only then that the opportunity for ownership and responsibility can exist. Connection can create space for us- space to open our hearts. When our hearts are open, we are then afforded the opportunity to open our minds to a whole new world.

I am proud to say that I work for an organization that ‘walks its talk’. The TIPI Group of Companies is making every effort to learn, grow, contribute and lead by example.

Indigenous owned and led, the TIPI Group of Companies has developed and implemented unique and special initiatives that can assist you and your organization on your journey. Like any complex conversation, it is not easy, we make mistakes. But the key is to learn, to grow and to take it forward and I do believe that we are doing that both collectively and individually as an organization. If we engage meaningfully, respectfully and in a good way we have room to fall and rise together.

I love my work. It is my heart work. It is definitely not easy—in fact some days it is downright painful and can throw you against the wall. As difficult as it can be, I have come to learn to embrace this as well. We must recognize that the Truth and Reconciliation conversation is fluid, it ebbs and flows and sometimes when you feel like you have arrived, you realize you have only just begun. Healing is a lifelong process. This heart work, while not easy, has fed and is feeding my spirit. It is helping me move forward on my own personal truth and reconciliation journey, one experience at a time.

After Truth, comes Action

I am a lawyer by trade and I am currently the Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Reconciliation at TIPI Group of Companies. This role has allowed me to truly focus on Truth and Reconciliation work, where I lead our strategic initiatives to assist in the education and action of organizations in Canada through our Truth2Action program.

The Truth2Action initiative focuses on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action—especially Call to Action #92—and is aimed at improving the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. With a mission of facilitating the relationship process through increased understanding, respect, and collaboration, the Truth2Action team focuses on endeavors that promote truth-telling, justice, restitution, and addressing closing the economic gap. Officially launched in the spring of 2023, the initiative offers support and guidance to organizations on their journey towards reconciliation through a number of programs.

The first program is called Truth2Action: Reconciliation for Business. This program is Indigenous owned, developed, and led. We can customize the approach to ensure an in-depth review and the development of a road map to help your vendors redefine their workplace standards and culture. The program provides a welcoming and inclusive space for participants to learn about Indigenous histories, cultures, and perspectives, where we were, where we are and where we need to go and provides safe space for partners to understand their roles in the reconciliation process.

The second is the Truth2Action:  Economic Business Partnership Program, which supports the development of holistic awareness of ‘wealth’ creation and sustainability through an Indigenous lens. Through this program, Truth2Action and its partners champion Economic Reconciliation by ensuring mutual equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities.

The TIPI Group of Companies is driven by the mission for Economic Reconciliation. The majority of profits made by the TIPI Group of Companies and all its entities (TIPI Insurance Partners, TIPI-IMI Insurance Partners, Legacy Bowes, and HQ Benefits) are funneled back into its ownership group of First Nation communities across Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This gives back to the communities that we serve.

Next Steps

Looking for what steps to take in your journey to Truth and Reconciliation? Check out the website for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation for resources.

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into Truth and Reconciliation and are ready to do your part, check out our website to read more about our Truth2Action initiative and contact us to see how you and your organization can learn the hard truths of Indigenous history in Canada, and what you can do to take action toward Reconciliation.

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