Registered nurse Sara Williams, a UWindsor alumna (BScN 2019, MN 2021), has answered a spiritual call to her profession and her community.
She is an Anishinaabe Kwe from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located on the St. Clair River in the city limits of Sarnia, and belongs to the Sucker Fish Clan.
Studies in sports and recreation administration at Lambton College led her to a practicum placement in Saskatchewan, a province steeped in Indigenous culture.
While Williams was working at White Buffalo Youth Lodge for the Boys and Girls Club of Saskatoon, a nurse practitioner encouraged her to consider a career in nursing, since there was a need for Indigenous nurses.
“During my time in Saskatoon, I was able to see how rich the Indigenous culture was and how southern Ontario communities had been greatly impacted by colonization,” says Williams. “After moving back home to Sarnia to begin my BScN studies at Lambton College, I wanted to see our communities reclaim our culture and healthy ways of being, like I had witnessed out west.”
A chance encounter with Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre while running summer day camps for kids in her home community of Aamjiwnaang First Nation set Williams on a path to fulfil her self-mandate: working with the Indigenous population.
Upon her graduation, Williams leaned into traditional healing, obtained her colours and spirit name “tibjii ahnkwut” or Rolling Clouds, and began attending ceremonies and other cultural events.
“But really, I feel my calling kicked into high gear during the pandemic,” says Williams. “SOAHAC asked me to take on vaccination efforts. We were the first off-reserve vaccination site in the country to service the Indigenous population.”
She says the centre was overwhelmed with the community’s gratitude.
“We were shown appreciation with traditional gifts of dreamcatchers, beadwork, and sincere letters — a clear indication that they felt more comfortable with Indigenous nurses because we understood their culture and their traumas.”
Now Indigenous Curriculum and Pedagogy Advisor in the UWindsor Faculty of Nursing, Williams views Indigenous health care as a mindful approach and an on-going process. Her long-term goal is to complete her PhD with teaching and research in mind, and to create a culture-first nursing theory for Indigenous Canadians.