Student Stories: Meet Kristy Pittman

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

nek ‘n-ew Tsatawaz’

wey-ge-noy-ek’ Kristy Pittman

Twehl-keyr me’-wo-me-chock’ ese Ts’kw’aylaxw me’-wo-me-chok’


wek xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) ‘we-hlkey-lo-nah

wok-hlew kee ‘ne-kwey-get



So I introduced myself- my English name is Kristy Pittman, and I am Yurok, Karuk, Chetco and St’át’imc Nation. Then I acknowledged that this is Musqueam land and that I am grateful.


What is your favourite coffee spot on campus?

My favourite coffee spot on campus is my house! [laughs] I make my own frappucinos at home from a powder- frozen bean. If I have to pick a favourite coffee spot on campus, I would say a local one: “Bean Around The World Coffee”.


What study place do you enjoy most on campus?

I enjoy the NITEP building as my favourite study place because it’s like- you walk into your family place, just like walking into your uncles’ or grandma’s house, so they will give you a welcoming hug when you walk through the door and make you feel comfortable. It’s a real grounding place.


What is your favourite study snack?                                                                             

Chocolate. Maybe I should say something Indigenous, like sts’wan and sxusum!


Do you have some favourite educational topic or favourite class that you especially love or that made an impression on you?

One of my favourite classes for the first year was WRDS 150B because it helped me improve my writing and essay structure, and I think it was a foundational class to help me carry through my years. It helped so much with essays.
My other favourite class would be the ANTH 461 class, which talked about traditional rites of fishing and harvesting and working with Indigenous communities in respectful ways. So in going into communities and anthropology by following protocol and coming back into the community with the witnessing of giving back the evidence. And not rushing through anything, making sure that the Indigenous communities are happy and that you filled all your obligations to them because ultimately the research that you were doing was because of their gratefulness for the land and their knowledge. So, acknowledging everything that they gave to you by following their lead, just like taking a back seat and letting them guide the research, I found that was really nice.

I really enjoy Shannon’s class EDCP 362D, [which] is a really great class to learn about- and to grow NITEP students together. We all grew more because we got to take the teacher role and read the articles, and then teach it from our perspective and give a personal feel, having the article guide us, and picking out doing our own research about the article and the author too.


What kinds of extracurricular activities do you participate in?

The extracurricular activities I [love] are Pow-wow dancing with my family. We dance Pow-wow and then we attend ceremony in California during the summer months. Just trying to connect it with nature, visiting our territories whenever possible to get that connection of home and with the land and our families.


How would you describe your NITEP experience so far?

I would describe my NITEP experience as fulfilling, grounding… something that I was lacking in my life. I didn’t know how to achieve it, so coming to NITEP, I just felt like a family immediately. I was a little bit nervous because I didn’t know anybody in my first year. Alexis was amazing because I would reach out to her and ask, “I don’t know anybody; how do I meet people, especially during Covid and online.” Alexis said just reach out- be the first one to make an effort over Zoom, and I felt a connection with my friends Rachel. Well, now she is one of my friends [laughs]. We became friends as time progressed, it got easier to reach out and feel just that family connection that we’re all in it together, and we can all help each other and support each other through school.  I’m very blessed, and grateful, and thankful to be able to have everybody from all the staff that work here to the professors and to other students.


What’s your most impressive experience did you have at UBC? Or a highlight moment?

I think a time I felt proud of myself would be in a class when I introduced myself. I feel proud that my ancestors are happy that I can introduce myself, and that I’m still keeping our language alive!

Speaking when they weren’t allowed to in the institution, so breaking those barriers and decolonizing the space and letting the language fill up these institutional walls and buildings and flow out.


What kind of learning curve have you encountered, and how did you overcome it?

The learning curve that I encountered was writing at a university level, at first, I really struggled with my writing. I’m not perfect at it now but I’m getting better. So WRDS 150 was a really foundational class for me. Visiting the academic writing centre during Covid was online, so I would make an appointment for every paper I had multiple times. I would see somebody about my reading and ask them for help and guidance. They would, you know, [say] “What are you trying to say in this sentence? What do you mean here, you need to transition here,”and so it was one-on-one support that I needed; I was very thankful that that service is here for people. The writing consultants were all very nice, and they are students, so they not only understand the course load but also they understand what you mean and not to make you feel bad for coming. Their positive and uplifting attitude makes you feel good, and they don’t make you feel dumb or inferior. They’re just there as a support to help. I don’t know if enough students utilize it, but I always recommend going to the writing centre for help because they’re filled with amazing people there.


Can you tell us about a hard moment that you had in university?

The hard moment that I had in university was in a Canadian studies class about the constitution and the pushback that I would always get about bringing forward the Indigenous voice and bringing in the Indigenous content. And I was just trying to educate my professor about Indigenous things when they had just gotten out of university and they had no idea that these documents exist and continue to exist, so it was hard [because] I was the only Indigenous person in the class. There were some allies when I would speak up, and it was an online class, and one or two would sometimes comment, but most of the time, I was by myself. So, I felt like I was the only one fighting for the Indigenous voice in that class, but I still managed to push through and overcome it, and it made me stronger.


In the beginning, why did you choose your major? How did you decide to follow this education path?

I chose my major because it is something that I’ve always wanted to be- since I was little. [When] me and my sister would play ‘School’- and I always wanted to be the teacher. I would find old books, like schoolbooks, in our house or at families’ houses- school books- and teach my sister math or different subjects, so that was really fun for me. My late grandma is a teacher, and my auntie is a teacher, and I feel that connection with us all, and it’s also like in my blood to become a teacher. I saw a flyer at NITEP before COVID. I was helping a friend with their vendor business, and when I was sitting there waiting for people to come up and buy, I saw a flyer for NITEP. I had this feeling like this is where I needed to be when I opened it and looked at it. My biological dad had passed away, and I felt it was a burden to share some of my success during the last part of his life because he was so sick. I knew that he would be proud of me for doing that.


What professional goals have you set for yourself?

My goal after I finish NITEP is to continue my education and get my master’s degree. So, I want to continue my learning and growing as a person, and I can bring more content and value to the children I’ll be teaching in the future so that I can come in there and learn from them but also have them learn for me. So, we can learn together and grow and bring that Indigenous voice into the classroom.


Why is Indigenous Education important to you?

Indigenous Education is important to me because our voices have been held down for so long, and the residential schools started to exterminate us. When I see Indigenous people on campus or in NITEP, it makes me and my heart happy because I know that our ancestors are proud, and our voices are still being heard. We’ll be able to go in the classrooms or the workplaces and have that Indigenous voice that our ancestors or even our immediate family- dads or moms and uncles- never got to have. So, we get to speak for them and raise those children to be proud of who they are and where they come from. It could give them a voice and let them shine bright in the schools, workplaces, and places where they’ve been held down for so long. So, we are here to help pick them up, stand behind them, and keep them moving forward on a good path.


What is the one piece of advice you would like to give to a fresh student?

The advice that I want to give the first-year students coming to NITEP is “be open”- be proud of yourself, be proud of where you come from, and be proud to share your teachings. If you don’t have any teaching, be open to learning or open to asking your family for more teachings because that culture is going to help ground you in NITEP, but also, don’t be afraid to make friends and be the first person to ask somebody to go to coffee or study together or hang out because it takes that first initiation and the other students are probably feeling the same way you are, just like scared, nervous and you don’t want to ask, but when you make those connections that’s what builds family, it opens your eyes, your heart, and your mind to new teachings and new opportunities.

Do you have any other point for students to remember that might help them to learn more efficiently?

Figure out what works for you personally and do that. If you need complete silence to work in, don’t be afraid to let your friends or family know that you are going to study in the NITEP space, the longhouse, and the library. If you need music in the background, do that. Studying is so individualistic that you have to figure out what works for you and own it. Don’t be afraid to let other people know that, “this is what I need to do when I study.” Don’t be afraid to explain to people what you need.