Karen Pheasant on Lifelong Learning, Yoga & Dealing with Modern Day Racism

As the daughter of parents that survived residential school, Karen has witnessed and been a part of the economic and social tragedies of Indigenous peoples: the daughter of an alcoholic father, a high school drop out, and a young single mom. Her strong intuition that knowing one’s culture, kinship system, community and Indigenous identity saved her, and her children from the cycle of intergenerational trauma.

The belief in herself, community and family support, and having Indigenous academic mentors allowed Karen to complete her Bachelor of Arts, Masters in Education, and is currently enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Alberta.

On today’s episode, Karen shares the magic of her traditional territory, Manitoulin Island, the importance of reclaiming our kinship systems, how yoga transformed her life, and her experience running for Edmonton public school trustee.

“One of the unfortunate realities, particularity of my parents time –both my parents are residential school survivors – they grew up with the stigmatism of dumb, stupid Indian. Them being my parents, I grew up with that too.” – Karen Pheasant

“It takes a lot of courage and where I put my hand out and say I cannot do this alone. The truth of the matter is, we are like the eagles and the wolves, we are a society-based people – we don’t work in isolation and we don’t work best that way.” – Karen Pheasant

Listen to this episode

Today on the Women Warriors Podcast

  • Why she never states that she is busy (4:08)
  • The notable Indigenous people that come from Manitoulin Island (5:55)
  • Why Manitoulin Island has a high concentration of successful Indigenous peoples (7:13)
  • Her 16 year educational journey for her BA (9:04)
  • Overcoming the stigma of dumb, stupid Indian (9:22)
  • The revelation she had as a Child and Family worker in Alberta (Treaty 7) (11:35)
  • How having Indigenous mentors in University influenced her academic career (14:28)
  • The importance of community and family support (16:50)
  • Knowing our kinship system and our responsibilities key to success (17:44)
  • Reclamation of culture and kinship systems (18:56)
  • How to ask for help (20:00)
  • The intergenerational trauma in her life (21:50)
  • Her spiritual retreat (yoga certification) in BC (23:12)
  • Listening to your inner voice (24:40)
  • Indigenous culture in relation to universal spiritual teachings (25:48)
  • Her experience running for Edmonton public school trustee in 2013 (29:48)
  • Why Indigenous women need to be at the decision making table (39:00)
  • How a PhD program works (40:00)

Selected Links from this Episode

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Connect with Karen J Pheasant

University of Alberta


CBC Edmonton, June 04, 2013: Aboriginal woman is 1st to run as Edmonton school trustee.