A Red Deer aboriginal woman to be honoured on Friday credits her grandmother for helping her find her voice in the community.
Teresa ‘Corky’ Larsen-Jonasson, now an elder herself, will receive the Institute For the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) 2017 Esquao Award in Community Involvement at a gala in Edmonton.
“It’s meaningful to me because I believe my grandmother was also a recipient of this award back in the 70s.”
The IAAW, formerly the Voice of Alberta Native Women Society, recognizes the achievements and contributions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women in Alberta.
Larsen-Jonasson said she will be accepting the award on behalf of her grandmother and the many women in Red Deer that work hard for their community. Her grandmother, Christine Joseph, is now 94 and lives in Cochrane, where Larsen-Jonasson was visiting on Wednesday.
In the early 70s, when Larsen-Jonasson was a young teen, her grandmother would pick her up and take her to meetings. “More often than not I would go reluctantly because I found them boring. As a teenager my mind was elsewhere. Regardless, it planted a seed.”
“I’m born and raised Red Deer. This is where my heart is, my family. This is the community I’m going to do my work in, as best I can.”
Today she’s involved with Red Deer Native Friendship Centre, Safe Harbour and other groups in Red Deer, including Red Feather Women. She serves as a member of the National Collective of the Walking With Our Sisters Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women awareness project.
She’s a member of the Urban Aboriginal Voices Women’s Council and works with the Red Deer Welcoming and Inclusive Communities Network. She attended the National Indigenous Women’s Summit in Ottawa in March.
As well, Larsen-Jonasson recently published a children’s book, The Sharing Circle, which is based on a traditional indigenous way for adults and children to deal with disagreements.
The 56-year-old Cree-Métis woman said there was a time in her teens until the early 90s when she had a pretty “lost life” personally. Then she started to sit with an elder named George Goodstriker who was from the Standoff Blood reserve. He “adopted” her and her husband Lynn Jonasson, according to culture, not law.
“He didn’t save my life but he taught me and gave me tools that I could do it myself. I don’t think I really found my voice in my community until I was in my late 40s, 50. Now it’s coming out … Sometimes when you speak out people push back. Before that would just throw me but now I feel capable to stand my ground. It’s because these seeds were planted when I was a young woman.”