From shy player to team captain: WE’s Sacred Circle program empowers Alberta teen with confidence.

By Sarah Fox


When Mackenzie Dachuk’s mother told her about WE’s Sacred Circle—a nation-wide leadership program for Indigenous youth—she thought it sounded like any other camp, just a bunch of kids hanging out, participating in various outdoor activities. What Mackenzie took away from the leadership program was a surprise.

Created to encourage youth to come together and discover more about their roots—and in turn themselves and one another—Sacred Circle focuses on connecting participants with the local Indigenous community. To achieve this, the presence of an Elder is an imperative.

For the Alberta teen, the memorably unexpected began once introduced to the Elder.

“I think that was probably my favourite part about the whole weekend,” says Mackenzie of meeting the Cree Elder who guided her group. “Just talking to Leonard and him teaching us how to give back to the Earth.”

To Mackenzie’s revelation, her interactions with the Elder unlocked something. Through Sacred Circle she came to realize that her Métis heritage had been guiding part of her life all along. “Something that surprised me the most about the program was how much I already knew about my culture,” she says amazed. “I had actually already used many of the teachings.”

After Sacred Circle, Mackenzie’s appreciation for the wisdom Leonard affirmed within her grew even stronger—equipping her with the positivity that comes with knowing one’s self.

As she shares, the program helped her build life skills that have shaped the person she is today—bridging the gap to a world of opportunity. “Everything I’ve learned at Sacred Circle has made me a better person,” Mackenzie gushes. “It has shown me that I do have leadership skills… and how to use them!”

Now the captain of her hockey team, she says, “I will use those leadership skills all through my hockey career and continue being a role model for everyone around me.”

Beyond her team, Mackenzie also volunteers as an assistant coach for a girls team in her community, on top of volunteering with a program called First Shift, which helps kids learn how to skate.

“It’s about creating self-worth and increasing their self-esteem and confidence,” says Shannon Dunfield, who helps coordinate the local program as Grand Prairie Public School District’s Coordinator of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Programs. “Sacred Circle helps them see the person that they could be.”

Two years later, Mackenzie still attributes Sacred Circle for giving her the self-assurance and courage to make the move from player to leader in her chosen sport. “After being a part of Sacred Circle, I found I was a much more confident person,” she says. “I learned that a part of me was able to take risks—that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.”

Mackenzie’s new found self-assurance has shifted her attitude toward future prospects, ultimately allowing her to reimagine both the obstacles she can overcome and the goals she can accomplish on and off the ice.

Knowing this, Mackenzie is skating swiftly down the path to success.

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