Iksokapi Profile: Tasha Spillett, Opaskwayak Cree Nation
“A positive attitude is also like a gift you can give to others who may not be able to see the light in people or in situations.” – T. Spillett
PROFILE – Miss Tasha Spillett from Winnipeg, Manitoba is also known as Miss Congeniality 2014, voted by 22 fellow Miss Indian World pageant participants at this year’s Gathering of Nations Powwow. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Tasha wears many hats including an educator, singer and motivational speaker.
Tell us about yourself?
Tansi! My name is Tasha Spillett, I’m 25 years old and of Cree and Trinidadian descent. Currently, I work as a high school teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba and I am working on my master’s degree in Indigenous Land Based Education through the University of Saskatchewan.
I’m a ceremony woman and a ceremony singer and a powwow backup singer. When I’m lifting my voice in prayer, my heart overflows. I love being around ceremony, the drum and gatherings of Indigenous people living mino pimatisiwin (the good life). I love life, and try to see the beauty in everything!
One of my passions is traveling to different communities to talk with youth on issues related to empowerment, rites of passage and to remind them of their sacredness as well as the resilience that lives on in their bloodlines.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m proud to be able to say that I’ve been sober my whole life. I believe that life is a blessing and is meant not only to be survived, but for us to thrive and to celebrate it. I wouldn’t want to live my life without all my senses fully intact. My sobriety is my way of honoring myself, as well as the teachings that have been passed on to me.
Also, in April of this year I stepped forward to represent my Nation at the Gathering of Nation’s Miss Indian World pageant. I chose to participate in the spirit of sisterhood and Nation building. The experience was life changing and I’m humbled to carry the 2014 Miss Congeniality award given to me by the 22 other Indigenous female ambassadors who participated.
I’m constantly setting new goals for myself, whether they are small, like drinking enough water each day or big like getting my PhD. I’m conscious of the importance of living with purpose and think goal setting is a huge part of leading a purpose driven life.
Someday I hope to be self-employed and have the freedom to travel all over Turtle Island working with Indigenous communities on supporting them to breath life into their traditional ways of being and on developing models of education that fuse together traditional knowledge and mainstream curriculum. As an Indigenous educator, I see the shortcomings of the current education structure and know that Indigenous youth thrive in culturally appropriate learning environments that foster belonging and are reflective of their ancestry.
One day, I also hope to master the art of frybread making! People might not remember what you did, or what you said but they will always remember how good your frybread was! I’m kind of joking- mostly I just want to live a full life, work for my people, be a good ancestor for those yet to come and never pass up opportunities to laugh.
Who are your role models?
My mother is my greatest role model. She is strong in a kind and graceful way. Her heart is for our people and she works tirelessly for the wellbeing of our Nation. All that I am is just a reflection of all that she is. She taught me by example to work from a place of love, to be fearless and to have unrelenting faith. From her I also learned to recognize the unique gifts of everyone who comes into my life.
In saying that, I have so many role models. I try to learn something from each person who crosses my path. I’m particularly inspired by people who are themselves, inspired. I especially honor those who defend our land and our water, as well as those who are working to revitalize our languages and cultures – to me they are the true warriors.
Be fiercely determined and know that to realize your goals you will need to work hard and have faith. It may not be easy to accomplish but if it’s in your heart and you’re willing to invest yourself in it, then it’s entirely possible. All the most amazing things in my life, I didn’t think I could do until the moment I had it done. Believe in yourself and stay close to those who also believe in you.
How do you overcome barriers that you encounter?
Work harder and pray harder. I refocus and reevaluate my game plan. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting innovative or seeking guidance.
Barriers are like tests to see how bad you want what it is you’re working towards. They are frustrating and sometimes very overwhelming, but overcoming them makes the outcome even sweeter.
One thing I never let myself do is doubt myself or get scared. Where there is faith, fear can’t exist. Keeping a positive state of mind is my secret weapon against barriers!
My life isn’t sunshine and rainbows day in and day out, I feel disappointment, upset, sadness etc. just like everyone else. But I try to let those emotions flow through me like water because I know it doesn’t serve me to carry them. I try to nurture the goodness in my life, by doing things that make me happy and by surround myself with people who also have positive attitudes. I am aware that I have power over my emotions and because I own this responsibility, my happiness is up to me.
A positive attitude is also like a gift you can give to others who may not be able to see the light in people or in situations. I feel like I’m given many blessings, being positive is a way I can reciprocate those blessings to others.
If you could meet anyone in the world (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
If I could meet anyone in the world it would be my maternal and paternal great-grandmothers. I want to know the women that I descend from, to hear their stories about the things that brought them joy and the things that brought them heartache. I want to be able to carry more than their DNA with me. I think being able to sit and have tea with these two women would be absolutely amazing! I encourage those who are able to sit with their elders to do so! Take care of them, learn from them, laugh with them. The time we share with our elders is so precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted Time is one of the most valuable gifts that we can share with one another.
What three things about you that you are most proud of?
That people trust me with their goals and dreams. I’m always so humbled when people share their visions for their lives with me. It’s amazing to be able to witness someone’s growth. Totally inspiring!
Also, I’ve been able to create learning environments for young people in which they feel safe and like their gifts are acknowledged and celebrated. One of the reasons I wanted to be in Education was so I could create the learning environment I didn’t have. Turning a negative into a positive is something that I’m proud of.
And singing, I’m happy that when I sing it lifts peoples’ hearts. The voice is so powerful, we can use it to hurt or to heal, and I choose to use mine to heal. I see singing like prayer with a melody and I love sharing my voice.
To book Tasha for speaking opportunities email Tasha_spillett@hotmail.com for more information.
(Photos provided by Tasha S.)