Michelle is the Associate Director for Saskatchewan First Nation Emergency Management in Prince Albert and the first female President for the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada.
My name is Michelle Vandevord, and I’m from Muskoday First Nation. The most important job I’ve ever had is being a Mother. I’m very fortunate to have been given three beautiful daughters, whom I love more than anything in the world. That is, until I had grandchildren…now there is love you can only appreciate once they touch your life!
I’ve enjoyed many different jobs on the reserve over the years, but none has been more important than my volunteer work. It’s who I am, and it pushes me to be the best I can be. I do it to honor my Grandmother Delilah and Mother Lillian, whom I miss dearly. They instilled in me volunteerism and a love for my community at a very early age, and for that I will be forever grateful.
When I was asked to attend a Firefighter meeting at the Fire Hall, it was an easy decision. That was 18 years ago, and as I write this, I’m wondering—where did the time go? This summer will be my 22nd year with the Muskoday Volunteer Fire Department. It’s the most important job I’ve ever had with my community.
I joined Muskoday Volunteer Fire Department because at the time, there were no women on the force. I took it as a challenge to start something new, and also to be a role model for the young girls on the reserve—especially my own daughters.
My advice for the next generation of girls who want to join a Fire Department is: Don’t give up. Work hard and earn respect. Never be afraid of the challenges, because skills will come in time and with practice. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, because you can. Be a role model on and off the job.
Most importantly, don’t be scared to say when you are afraid to do something—but know your limits. It took me five years to climb a ladder and get on a roof, but eventually I did it. Be a hero in your own mind first, and then spread that spirit outward.
Artwork by Carime Quezada