Valerie Desjarlais, from Kawacatoose First Nation, originally from Muskowekwan First Nation in Saskatchewan, is the Health Director for Touchwood Agency Tribal Council. Formerly she was an in-school liaison worker and counsellor for the four communities of Day Star, Gordon, Kawacatoose, and Muskowekwan. As well, she has done work in street outreach programming for sexually exploited women, street workers, and victims of domestic violence in Regina, Saskatchewan. While in Regina, Valerie worked by day and went to school by night and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Human Justice. She also has her Chemical Dependency Addiction certification and went on to specialize in programming such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Focusing Therapy at Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 2007, she obtained her Master Practitioner in Neurological Linguistic Programming.
Among all of her achievements in education, one of the essential teachings she has received is the concept of life-long learning. Life-long learning is more than just learning through academia; it comes through life experiences. Our history, the way we grow up, and the connection to who we are is essential to life-long learning. Today, culture, traditional values, and belief systems are fragmented as a result of assimilation, acculturation policies, and colonization that have been implemented on Indigenous peoples over generations. Life-long learning begins by understanding who we are, claiming our identity, and knowing where we come from. The teachings of identity are a spiritual process. Understanding family lineages, clan systems, and the significance of getting Indigenous names helps in learning your roles and responsibilities in life and it is empowering.