Brenda Cardinal, a First Nations learner from Kehewin Cree Nation located in Alberta, is completing a Bachelor of Commerce (BComm) through the Athabasca University’s (AU) partnership with the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Alberta (AFOA).
Indigenous cultural perspective
Cardinal has been involved and learning with AFOA since 2012. She has been working with the Kehewin Band Office for over 20 years and is currently the Finance and Accreditation Coordinator with Kehewin Health Centre, where she is responsible for planning the Nation’s benefits and pension plan.
The AFOA Alberta and AU BComm program teaches through an applied Indigenous cultural perspective–a method of learning that has helped Cardinal give back to her community. The practice is invaluable for Nation members who are working directly with their people.
Cardinal has been living in Kehewin Cree Nation for the past 26 years. When she moved to the Nation, she started working with the Chief as an Executive Assistant. After the Chief stepped down, she got involved in finance.
“I’ve always been interested in finance and numbers… that was my passion,” she says.
“I went back as an adult and that’s when I finally learned about colonization, Native history, and women’s issues. It made me understand why I had been where I was at that point in my life. That’s when I started growing, learning, and living.”– Brenda Cardinal
Learning with the Faculty of Business
In 2019, Cardinal met with Dr. Deborah Hurst, Dean of the Faculty of Business at AU.
“She is a very nice lady and was really interested in me,” Cardinal says. “I’m looking forward to learning new things–keeping up with technology. I started using computers in 1990, when they had ancient floppy discs. You have to keep on top of it and you have to keep up with the latest technology.”
Cardinal has taken accounting and business law courses through AFOA since 2012, and says she loves the learning environment.
“I went back as an adult and that’s when I finally learned about colonization, Native history, and women’s issues,” she says. “It made me understand why I had been where I was at that point in my life. That’s when I started growing, learning, and living.”
Learning new things
“I’m just happy to take in whatever I can,” she says. “Aboriginal business law, strategy, values, ethics, and Aboriginal history… it helps to get to know the other students in the class.”
She continues to learn new things through her classes and remarked on the importance of building bonds with classmates. She is still friends with classmates she met back in 2012 when she started the program.
“I love that Athabasca University offers classroom instruction at AFOA Alberta’s new learning center at Enoch but also through online learning,” she says.
Beyond the classroom
Beyond her classes, Cardinal is a proud mother and grandmother. Along with her husband, she helps to raise her grandchildren–a 14-year-old grandson and two granddaughters, 10 and five years old. She is looking forward to getting a new house close to where she now lives, so she can plant a garden and grow flowers.