We’re sharing stories from some of our Indigenous employees to showcase their unique history, languages, cultures and experiences
June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada—a time to recognize the rich history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
At the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), we're celebrating National Indigenous History Month by sharing stories from some of our Indigenous employees to showcase their unique history, languages, cultures and experiences.
This week, we sat down with Wayne Wallace, Director of our Urban and Away-From-Home team, to learn more about his story.
Growing up on the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation reserve
Wayne Wallace is Wolastoqiyik, meaning “people of the beautiful river". He is a proud member of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation in what is often referred to as New Brunswick.
Wayne's Wolastoqiyik ancestry comes from his father's side of the family and his mother was French Canadian. He was raised on the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation reserve.
“There's no question that both of these cultures played an important role in shaping my identity," says Wayne. “I was surrounded by family growing up. I had two loving parents, brothers, lots of aunties, uncles and cousins who all supported me. I was very lucky."
Unfortunately, like so many other Indigenous and multiracial kids, Wayne also faced discrimination and bullying throughout his childhood.
“From a very early age, I had a lot going against me in terms of discrimination," recalls Wayne. “Where I grew up, people knew that if you are a 'Wallace', you were from the rez. I remember dealing with bullies, being followed in stores and other things like that. I was often the only person targeted because of my background. I am just thankful that I had the support of family, friends and a close-knit community to help me through those times."
Ultimately, Wayne's childhood on the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation reserve, surrounded by loving family and rooted in the traditions of his Wolastoqiyik ancestry, has shaped him into a person who cherishes his heritage.
“I take great pride in honouring my heritage and still hold a deep connection with my ancestral home," says Wayne. “I know I have my upbringing and the loving support of my family to thank for that."
Work towards representation
Today, Wayne lives in North Vancouver with his husband and children, but regularly visits Madawaska, where his father and older brother live.
He and his husband have nine-year-old twins through a surrogate mother, but only one of the twins has membership in his Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. This is because the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation's membership code only allows blood descendants to be registered as members and only one egg was fertilized by Wayne during in vitro fertilization. The second egg was fertilized by Wayne's husband, who is not Indigenous.
Wayne is actively working towards band membership for his son. “Aside from the membership code being heteronormative, it also goes against our traditional and customary practices as Wolastoqey people. Sadly, this goes back to the colonial values that were imposed on our community. As a Two-Spirit father, my hope is that we can reclaim our identity and our rightful place as 2SLGBTQQIA+ First Nations people. I want both of my sons to feel the same sense of community and belonging that I had growing up."
Show Your Support for National Indigenous History Month
Show your support for National Indigenous History Month by taking time to learn about First Nations, Inuit and Métis history or culture.
Help us spread the word by joining the conversation on social media with hashtag #NIHM2023. You can share what you're doing to commemorate National Indigenous History Month or why the month resonates with you.