If you’re a sports fan, you’re most likely familiar with the name of Mi’kmaq and Ojibwe STU alumni Kyana Kingbird (BAA ’18, BA ’19).

Hailing from Esgenoôpetitj First Nation right here in New Brunswick, Kingbird was most recently chosen for a creative mentorship program with the Toronto Raptors and Drake’s record label OVO Sound. The program is part of an initiative that advocates for BIPOC creatives in Toronto. She will showcase her talent in fancy shawl dancing.

Kingbird shared on her Instagram on February 5 that she had recently received a certificate of recognition from the MP of Miramichi-Grand Lake Jake Stewart.

The certificate reads: “I would like to congratulate you on being chosen as a finalist for the Creative Mentorship Program…You are an extraordinary and valuable mentor for the youth in your community. You inspire by trying to make the world a better place and you do it with tireless effort and selfless determination.”

But there is another side to Kingbird: her tireless, selfless advocacy for her community.

Kingbird is the community safety program co-ordinator at Esgenoôpetitj.

In a press release distributed by the RCMP, Kingbird said that she, “want[ed] to make the entire community safer… but we really have to look at the deeper issues, deal with them, and help people thrive.” 

“We want to work with the RCMP and build a strategy that helps all parts of the community,” Kingbird continued. “And part of that is to deal honestly and openly with all our partners.”

Many Indigenous communities across Canada, along with the local RCMP, have launched community safety planning initiatives to help improve the lives of their residents. Esgenoôpetitj First Nation in New Brunswick is one of the newest communities to launch a safety planning initiative.

The Aboriginal Community Safety Planning Initiative (ACSPI) began in 2010 in conjunction with Public Safety Canada. It was renewed in 2014 as part of the federal government’s Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes against Aboriginal Women and Girls.

Along with community partners including healthcare officials, schools, youth and Elder representatives, and the RCMP, the ACSPI aims to create safer, more welcoming communities while respecting each individual’s culture and needs.

Kingbird has expressed her belief in the importance of discussing the root causes of political and social issues at Esgenoôpetitj. She has also shown great interest in establishing initiatives that help connect youth and Elders with their community’s history.

Kingbird has been a strong Indigenous advocate and liaison between the Federal Government and Esgenoôpetitj First Nation. She has emphasized that the success of ACSPI cannot be measured by simply checking tasks off of a list.

“We’re fully committed to achieving [the tasks], but we need to have the entire community feel comfortable and know everyone respected the process,” Kingbird said.

Find Kyana Kingbird on Instagram @kyannakingbird.