Reclaiming her Indigenous identity is a family affair for Corporal Windy Lafreniere

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News Article / August 9, 2021

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Holly Bridges 

MCpl Windy Lafreniere is a Mobile Support Equipment (MSE) Operator and Military Co-Chair of the CFB Borden Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group. On June 29 she was promoted to Master Corporal and posted to 8 Wing in Trenton, Ontario.

As an MSE Operator, some of MCpl Lafreniere’s responsibilities include operating a variety of military vehicles, maintaining equipment, securing loads for transport, and providing transportation support for various courses on base, snow removal and now office work. As confirmed by her recent promotion, MCpl Lafreniere performs her responsibilities at the highest levels of her rank and is a pivotal part of the RCAF team.

Her roots

MCpl Lafreniere is a member of the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne along the St. Lawrence River. She was put into foster care at birth to a non-Indigenous family and never really knew her birth parents or siblings (she has 12 brothers and four sisters). She met her birth parents when she was a teenager, but they both passed away shortly afterwards. She lived with various foster parents until the age of eight until she met the Kinsellas, with whom she would remain with until aging out of foster care at 18 (and who would remain her parents until this day).

“I owe huge thanks to the Kinsellas for me becoming the driven person I am today. If not for their love and support I would not be who I am today.”

Early RCAF Connection

Interestingly, MCpl Lafreniere’s foster mother also served in the RCAF as a Leading Air Women for three years working as a clerk in the commander’s office typing up routine orders.

Now, MCpl Lafreniere is on a journey to discover more about her Indigenous connections and to instill a strong sense of identity, culture and pride in her three children.

“As my husband is Algonquin and I’m Mohawk, all of my kids recently got their status cards so they are super excited. We have tried to teach our children about their roots as we ourselves learn about them as well. My daughter was chosen by our elders at a very young age to become a jingle dress dancer (medicine dancer), which is quite an honour.”

Pivotal at 16 Wing

At 16 Wing, MCpl Lafreniere has been instrumental in raising awareness of Indigenous culture and supporting local Indigenous CAF members and their families. Some of the events she has helped coordinate include sweat lodges, sharing circles and Indigenous awareness day activities.

She is hoping to continue this work when she gets posted to 8 Wing, which is located close to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, a sister reserve of her birthplace.

“I’ve been Military Co-chair of the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group for the past three years so I’ve been learning quite a bit. I’m hoping I can get something similar started in Trenton.”

Indigenous Youth Nights

One of the ideas she would like to see implemented is a weekly Indigenous Youth Night led by the local Military Family Resource Centre to help Indigenous members and their families feel more connected and able to celebrate their culture.

As for her family, MCpl Lafreniere is particularly proud of her children who are beginning to understand their roots and celebrate their culture with others.

“My main goal is that they learn it and spread it,” she says. Recently, her children placed teddy bears on their doorstep in memory of the Indigenous children found at the former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. The gesture soon caught on with their neighbours as well.

Strong and steadfast

And if there was every any doubt of MCpl Lafreniere’s commitment to teaching her children about their roots, connecting with her culture and supporting other Indigenous CAF members, one need only look at the word beside her name on her email signature block, “tekonwatahston,” which means “standing up for my people” in Mohawk.

Congratulations to MCpl Lafreniere for supporting her family in connecting with their roots and we wish them the best of luck moving forward with their new posting.

 

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