Nature Canada

Get to Know the 2022 Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Winner: Kianna Bear-Hetherington!

Every year, the Charles Labatiuk scholarship is awarded to an exceptional person with a proven passion for protecting Canada’s nature and wildlife.

Meet this year’s recipient: Kianna Bear-Hetherington, a proud Wolastoqey woman from the beautiful community of Sitansisk located in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Being proudly of the Wolastoqiyik “people of the beautiful and bountiful river”, she grew up with a special relationship with the land and all living things in it. 

“My relationship with nature is based on a profound spiritual connection to Mother Earth.”

Kianna Bear-Hetherington

A Passion for Indigenous Conservation 

A deep spiritual connection to nature and a burning desire to help Indigenous communities thrive drove her to complete a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Natural Resources with a major in Water Resource Management at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). She has recently applied to the University of Carleton in Ottawa to pursue a Master of Public Policy with a Concentration in Indigenous Policy in hopes of restoring connections to ancestral lands in meaningful ways through impactful legislation and policy changes.

In all areas of her life, she is a fierce advocate for the advancement of Indigenous rights by returning to our sacred relationship with our Mother Earth. 

“Reconnecting with my culture has helped me discover many passions and find purpose in the work that I do with the land. I am deeply passionate about bridging Indigenous knowledge systems and western science to establish a sustainable relationship with the land. My studies will allow me to create more inclusion of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge in the governance of natural resource management.”

In previous years, she assisted with major treaty rights and consultation files with Sitansisk and the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick (WWNB). These experiences were not only empowering as she was able to engage as an active member of her community, but also reinforced the beliefs and values that she intends to bring forward in her chosen career path. 

Currently, she also sits as the Indigenous Representative (Nuci Putuwasuwin) for the University of New Brunswick. In this role, she focuses on advancing efforts that improve the experiences and opportunities offered to Indigenous students through a culturally safe lens. 

Giving back to her community

“Volunteering my time to help my community thrive is something that I value and never get tired of. Some of that volunteer work is spent at various powwows, helping out wherever I am needed, but also in organizing culturally relevant workshops for youth including harvesting sweetgrass, traditional basket making and drum making.”  

These experiences have also allowed her to connect more with the people in her community in meaningful ways, hearing their stories and experiences and using that to help guide her leadership. 

Diving into Nature

Kianna recently had the incredible opportunity to spend the whole month of July in Croatia as a Research Assistant with Operation Wallacea. The first two weeks, she was based in Krka National Park where she was responsible for conducting conservation fieldwork that included transect surveys, point counts, and mist netting on a range of species that called Krka their home.

She spent her final two weeks diving off the coast of Silba Island, within the Adriatic Sea gaining both her PADI Open Water Qualification and Advanced Diver Qualification. Here, she focused on marine research and participated in a Mediterranean ecology and survey techniques course while undertaking research surveys on Mediterranean fish communities, the impact of sea urchin populations and the role of seagrass meadows in supporting fish and invertebrate biodiversity.

Plans for the Future 

Her future career goal is to complete a law degree so she can represent a collective of voices which often go unheard the most. She is inspired to create greater recognition of Indigenous governments and peoples through the courts, parliament, and legislatures because it is important to acquire their perspective on all issues, not just the ones that affect non-Indigenous people.

“I want to be a voice for communities facing environmental injustices and encourage the youth in my community to use their voices as well. Through my passion for environmental stewardship and Indigenous rights, I hope to educate and inspire Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth alike to engage in respectful, reciprocal relationships with nature and Indigenous communities. It is important to empower the next generation to become conscious leaders in conservation.”

A thank you to the Labatiuk Family

“I want Nature Canada and the Labatiuk Family to know how incredibly honoured and grateful I am for this opportunity I have been awarded. Without your donation, I wouldn’t be able to raise the funds necessary to fulfill my ambition of becoming a lawyer to represent the Wolastoqey nation. Your generosity is allowing me to make my goals and dreams a reality. Woliwon, Welalin, Thank you for your continued support and investment in my future.”

We at Nature Canada are excited to see Kianna’s next step in the world of Indigenous conservation. We are confident her passion for nature will make a real difference in the world. 

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