Laura Hockman, executive director of Independent Living Vernon, works in the social work programs at UBCO in Kelowna and Okanagan College Vernon Campus. (Community Champion)

Community Champion: Uncovering identity through education, sharing

‘It is fabulous to be part of increasing the presence of Indigenous voices and cultures within an institution’

Laura Hockman shares that her core identity is as a Gitksan woman, with her family coming from Gitanmaax, near old Hazelton. Her grandfather was the hereditary Chief of the Frog Clan and her grandmother was groomed from childhood to be the hereditary Chief of the Wolf Clan, taking on that role at the age of 26.

Hockman is the executive director of Independent Living Vernon. She has her masters degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and her bachelor degree in social work. Hockman also works in the social work programs at both Okanagan College in Vernon and UBCO in Kelowna. She teaches about diversity, critical reflection and how to work respectfully with Indigenous people.

“As I was going through for my BSW and then subsequently my masters degree, I was learning who I was and figuring out my role in my family and my community,” Hockman said.

Hockman was asked how she thinks she impacts the students she teaches.

“It is fabulous to be part of increasing the presence of Indigenous voices and culture within an institution.

“I think I am able to provide a different perspective on what it means to ‘hold space’ for clients, with the main focus being on the front line one-on-one meeting with clients.”

“You can be real and laugh as a social worker, you can show who you are. You can teach them how to ground themselves in their relationship with their clients. Of course, we also talk about the values, ethics and standards of practice within social work itself.”

Hockman’s mom was sent to residential school to learn how to read and write English and struggled with the impact of that time in her life. In 2008, she was able to share her story with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It took until her 75th birthday to address the residential school experience with her family.

She apologized to her children, choosing to address the generational trauma. She had misplaced guilt about the experience and Hockman was able to assure her mom that it was not her fault.

“I hope more families can change the narrative around residential schools, being on the same page as their siblings and enjoy a collective reconciliation and process of healing. All of this has guided me in who I am.”

Hockman said her mother’s resilience, strength, humility and the fact that she was always so compassionate and caring with others, influenced her in a positive way.

As a consultant for the Opioid Crisis/Harm Reduction Strategy, Hockman has had a focus group concerning the cultural aspect, conducting interviews with Indigenous people who used opioids. She has worked with people who wanted to access traditional medicine using cultural ceremonies and helping them understand when it was and wasn’t appropriate to access these traditions.

As a fun activity, Hockman loves to do canning and crocheting. She said the practical side of her love is to be able to gift her family with her canning and crocheting giving her a sense of fulfillment.

She said that “every bite is a wish for love and every stitch represents an ‘I love you.’”

The monthly Community Champion feature is submitted by Respect Works Here, which is an initiative of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan. They are also the host agency for the Local Immigration Partnership Council and the Thompson Okanagan Respect Network.

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