Originally Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2017 7:28:34 EDT PM The Standard
Love and live fearlessly. Those are the words that Ashley Callingbull has said to herself since she was a child.
Callingbull, actress, model, motivational speaker and First Nations activist, was the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women.
As a Cree First Nations woman who was the first First Nations woman to win the title of Miss Universe, she used her crown to bring attention to the struggles and injustices facing First Nations peoples. She also has a lengthy resume of charity work, has also appeared on the Gemini-winning TV show Blackstone and participated (and came third) with her dad Joel in The Amazing Race Canada last year.
Growing up at Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta, she had many struggles early on in her life and turned to her culture as a way of healing. She spoke about her story and her struggles to get where she is now.
“In all honesty it’s very difficult growing up a First Nations girl and it’s still really difficult for me to live life as a First Nations woman today,” said Callingbull. “I feel like I have to work extra hard to become the person that I want to be because we are so stereotyped and so judged on the colour of our skin, because of our background and because of where we come from, and it’s sad because I come from this country. We are the first peoples of this country and the fact that I have to work extra hard to be standing here and doing the things that I do, it shouldn’t be that way.”
Callingbull faced racism at school beginning on her first day when she was five years old, facing rocks and dirt being flung at her as she and the other First Nations children got off the bus as other children yelled racial insults at them. She also suffered from years of abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend before her mother left him. A court case that followed saw Callingbull take the stand as a child and recount all of the physical and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend and his brothers.