ALUMNI UPDATE - JODIE LOVEGROVE
NCC students hail from around the globe. The rich cultural experience that we offer to our students and from which our entire NCC community benefits, emerges from this colourful mosaic of people.
Faculty and staff purpose to create a family-like atmosphere on campus - an ideal greenhouse for student success. The entire NCC community actively participates in the discovery of the unique cultural diversities that make up our school family. We celebrate International Days, where faculty, staff, and students showcase facets of their own cultures. We enjoy food from around the world that students prepare and proudly present to us during these special events. Demonstrating oral and written language skills and playing a variety of games from various countries are just a few activities that we enjoy. Our school is richer for this diversity, and we are all so grateful that we have the gift of welcoming and embracing students from around the world.
In this article, we are proud to present one of our indigenous Canadian alumni, Jodie Lovegrove. This young woman embodies the courage and resilience and resurgence of her heritage as a proud family member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations. The Mississaugas are part of the Ojibway (Anishinabe) Nation, one of the largest Aboriginal Nations in North America.
In sharing her journey with us, Jodie’s desire is to highlight her discoveries of the fascinating culture of her native people, and to promote respect for and recognition of indigenous peoples across Canada - and around the world.
Jodie’s mother, Wendy Lovegrove, is the Director of Food and Custodial Services at NCC. Shortly after Wendy began working at the school, she persuaded Jodie to give the school a try. Jodie loved her student years at NCC, beginning in grade 11, through to completing her Ontario Academic Credit program in 2003. (Now obsolete, the Ontario Academic Credit program was an extra year of university preparation).
“The switch to a private Christian school was a big change for me. The teachers actually had time for me which was important in my final years of high school. My studies were much more of a challenge. I really had to apply myself in order to get good grades. When I was in the public school it wasn’t all that challenging for me - and I do like a challenge. It makes life more interesting.”
Jodie loved the multicultural community at NCC. “…it was great to be exposed to so many different nationalities and meet friends from all over the world - a very neat experience as a high school student at NCC.”
Jodie’s goal was to work with underprivileged children and youth. Former NCC guidance counsellor Lynda Kirk encouraged her, directing Jodie toward post-secondary studies in the Child and Youth Worker program at Niagara College.
Following college graduation, Jodie worked with disadvantaged youth in a group home setting with over twenty very troubled young people in her care. Most of them had severe behavioural issues. Working there was incredibly challenging, but also very rewarding once Jodie broke through the barriers to reach them.
“All they needed was support and love. They wanted to know that somebody really cared about them and showed interest in them succeeding in the future. As much as they didn’t want to be told what to do, they really thrived once they had boundaries, stability, and rules, and knew what to expect from day to day. That was a really neat thing to see.”
Ready for another challenge, Jodie moved on to work for the Canadian Deaf Blind Association.
“I started working with a gentleman who was deaf/blind. (For purposes of confidentiality, we’ll call him David). David couldn’t walk; he couldn’t talk. He had cerebral palsy. At first, I really had no idea how to communicate or interact with him. It didn’t take long however, and we became best buddies. The relationship that we built together absolutely blew my mind. I had no idea it was even possible. Once I was able to break through and become a part of his world, that’s when we really connected.”
David and Jodie used hand-over-hand sign language - a tactile method of communication.
“I would put his hands on top of mine. He could feel the signs I was making. I spoke to him at the same time I was signing, so that he could feel the vibrations of my voice. He knew I was speaking to him and he soon knew my voice. He always kept me laughing. He has a huge personality; he’s an amazing person. He taught me so much.”
After three years, Jodie stepped back from the demands of personal support work, and caring for David on a full-time basis came to an end. Jodie continues to visit David and they enjoy a great friendship to this day.
In 2013, Jodie embarked on a brand new career path in the construction industry. She learned to tackle all aspects of building in both residential and commercial fields. Today, she co-owns JK Construction along with business partner Kevin Robins.
In addition to running a busy construction business, Jodie recently embarked on an exciting cultural adventure. She is unearthing secrets to mysteries that have puzzled her since she was a child.
In the past, there weren’t many opportunities to learn about her own native culture in school - or even at home. Her struggle is common to so many of Canada’s First Nations people. She understood that, for the first seven years of her life, her mother had lived on the reservation belonging to the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations (MNCFN).
“I knew that I had that native heritage. I always knew deep down inside of me that it was something to be proud of, that there was something sacred there - that it meant more than what I knew. My immediate family didn’t talk about it. Our history and traditions were never passed on to me. As a child, I thought it was something we just don’t talk about. I didn’t know where to go, or who to talk to. I didn’t have connections to the elders or anyone on the reservation to learn about those things.
“I really didn’t know who I was. I was torn between these two worlds of my native culture and the mainstream society that I was raised in. I wasn’t taught the truth of who I was, or where I came from, or what my ancestors have gone through. I learned bits and pieces from a mainstream society’s perspective - not from a native perspective."
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
Jodie’s longing to learn about her Mississauga culture recently found a remarkable outlet. Jodie’s uncle, Kelly Sault, was hired as a Field Liaison Representative (FLR) for the MNCFN. As archaeological and environmental assessment monitors, FLRs attend sites of proposed new developments on traditional Mississauga territory as part of the “Duty to Consult” agreement between the MNCFN and the government. Working alongside archaeologists, FLRs assist in determining the impact of future development on ancestral Mississauga lands.
Jodie was fascinated by the artifacts found on excavation sites that Sault was involved with. He suggested Jodie apply for an FLR position. When the MNCFN’s Department of Consultation and Accommodation hired her, Jodie was elated.
“Oh my gosh, finally! This is it. I have to try this out because this is what I’ve been looking for my whole life. This is going to connect me to my roots. I jumped in. It’s been fantastic."
UNEARTHING THE PAST
“It’s a big area where our ancestors traditionally lived. We’re on location to help determine whether there is a native site there and if any further work has to be done. We’re there to assist and to make sure that our heritage is being recovered in a respectful way.
“I finally began to learn about my roots. About how my ancestors lived. I’m able to see things coming out of the ground…the tools that they used, where they cooked, and how they cooked, and what they cooked. I see the floor that they walked on. I get to see it with my own eyes, I get to feel it with my own hands, I get to be right there and experience it.
“When the past is getting uncovered and rediscovered, it’s such an amazing thing to see. It’s a huge blessing to be able to recover things left behind by my ancestors. I’m learning how the earth provided all of their needs. They lived off of the land. They were self-sufficient and family oriented. They lived together, they worked together. When one suffered, they all suffered. When one succeeded, they all succeeded. It was such a tight-knit community and family meant so much.
"I’ve learned about traditional medicines. The Mississauga people knew that every plant on the earth serves a purpose. It can be used for so many different things to bring us health. Everything was used for something.
“One thing that I’ve learned about our people - the Ojibway - is that we were a very clean people. Every time we moved from place to place, we took everything with us. It makes it more difficult to find stuff that was left behind because we always took it with us. We didn’t leave a mess behind us.
“It’s really exciting to see these things - it makes it so real. Stone tools that we found, and pottery, and pots, and post moulds from long houses where they lived. Seeing where their houses were, the floor that they walked on and lived on. Being able to touch and see where they lived and walked every day - it’s connecting me to my past in such a real way. It’s not just hearing these stories and imagining it - I’m actually seeing it in real life right in front of my eyes. It’s a really, really neat experience!”
Jodie now works with other First Nations people who have grown up on reservations.
“I’m finally getting people in my life who are able to tell me stories and pass on traditions. I’m learning a lot - every day is a new adventure, not only with what I’m seeing but what I’m hearing, and the people I’m around - it’s really fantastic!"
The process of archaeological discovery is healing medicine for Jodie Lovegrove. She is unearthing and celebrating the truth behind the unique cultural heritage of her Anishinabe Nation.
“I’m sure there will come a day when there will be a major exciting archaeological discovery, but right now this is my exciting discovery and learning about who I am, and my past, and how my ancestors lived.”
Jodie Lovegrove’s hard hat carries the logo of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations. She wears it proudly. As she should.
Want to learn more about the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations? A great place to start is on their website: https://www.mncfn.ca.
Or take part in the next MNCFN summer Pow Wow, or the annual MNCFN Historical Gathering - two incredible cultural events. Or read the biography of one of my favourite Ojibway chiefs, the Reverend Peter Jones (known in Ojibwa as Kahkewaquonaby).