Kianna Bear-Hetherington - St. Mary’s First Nation
University grad hoping to be voice for those facing environmental injustices

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Writer

Kianna Bear-HetheringtonKianna Bear-Hetherington has managed to turn her life around and she’s now considered a role model.

Bear-Hetherington, who is 23, graduated this spring from the University of New Brunswick (UNB) with a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental and natural resources, with a major in water resource management.

It didn’t take long for the member of St. Mary’s First Nation in New Brunswick to find some work. She accepted a position to work as a fisheries technician for the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick, which is comprised of a half dozen First Nations throughout the province.

Bear-Hetherington is also one of six individuals that have been chosen to be a part of the National Youth Panel, for this year’s Cando Conference, set for June 26-29 in Membertou, N.S.

The youth panelists, who are between the ages of 18-30, were selected for their strengths, initiatives, accomplishments, entrepreneurial spirit and participation within their communities.

“It really means a lot to me,” Bear-Hetherington said of her selection to the panel. “I’m really inspired to go and share my story. It’s really empowering for me.”

Bear-Hetherington has no qualms providing details of her past.

“I have a lot of deep-rooted trauma in my story,” she said. “It’s important for me to be able to share this.”

Her mother is an Indian day school survivor. And her grandfather was a residential school survivor.

“It’s very much common with youth in our community who face that,” she said of intergenerational trauma.

Bear-Hetherington said her trauma led her to abusing alcohol and drugs during her first two years of university.

But she said she has been sober and clean for the past two years, in large part because she was able to engage with university activities that she enjoyed.

For example, she served as the Indigenous rep for her university’s student union the past two years.

Through this volunteer position Bear-Hetherington focused on advancing efforts that improved the opportunities and experiences for Indigenous students at her school.

While attending UNB, Bear-Hetherington also served as a teacher assistant for two semesters, in 2022, for a course titled Indigenous Issues and Perspectives in Natural Resource Stewardship.

Her responsibilities included assisting the professor with classroom instructions and grading and proctoring quizzes and exams.

Bear-Hetherington also led discussion sections and provided mentoring sessions with students.

Other duties included helping out with the development of course planning, keeping an eye on the students’ comprehension of the course and also providing feedback to the professor.

Though she is now working, Bear-Hetherington is also keen to continue her education. She is hoping to obtain a Master’s degree through an Italian-based school, primarily since she would be able to do some of her field courses in the Amazon, Asia or the Caribbean.

In her current and in any future positions, Bear-Hetherington is eager to assist those living in Indigenous communities.

“I want to be a voice for communities facing environmental injustices,” she said.