Deyen: An Invitation to Transform

Traditional Woman. Original illustration created for Deyen by Bridget George.

As a mixed-heritage woman of First Nations (Tla'amin Nation) and European ancestry, who has lived on and off reserve and in urban and rural places, Chastity Davis-Alphonse has a foothold in many worlds. "I am First Peoples and settler in one person; both experiences shape my world view," she said.

Davis-Alphonse uses her unique lens on the world to be a bridge for others in their own personal journey of reconciliation. During the past 15 years, Davis-Alphonse has built a name for herself as an Indigenous Relations strategic advisor.

Her work with more than 125 First Nations, major corporations, non-profit organizations, and branches government has helped renew relationships and improve understanding between disparate groups. She speaks passionately about the mediation work and healing circles she has led between the RCMP and Indigenous communities.

Uplifting Indigenous women

An equally important part of her work is uplifting and advocating for Indigenous women. She advised the BC government on policies to Indigenous women's health and well-being. This experience was pivotal in shaping her perspective and strengthening her belief in the power of her voice.

For Davis-Alphonse, reconciliation and rebuilding Indigenous communities starts by rebuilding the value given to Indigenous women. "I really want to share the strength and resiliency of Indigenous women through my work," she said.

CapU's Indigenous Digital Accelerator

COVID-19 cancelled all of Davis-Alphonse's in-person training sessions and speaking engagements. She needed a pandemic-proof online learning platform to make her curriculum more accessible to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across Canada.

She applied to work with CapU's Indigenous Digital Accelerator (IDA) program. The program links Indigenous small business owners with students and faculty partners to create information, tools and resources to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Davis-Alphonse was selected as the IDA's first client. Her project also became the University's first Mitacs-funded research project because it had a clear vision, strong business case, and offered direct hands-on learning opportunities for CapU students.

IDEA School of Design and INDIGENEXT lend a hand

Fourth-year students Rachel Wong and Haluka Yagi became the project leaders; they were supported by faculty member Carol Aitken from CapU's IDEA School of Design, and Bradley Shende from INDIGENEXT, a partner company also supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs. Wong and Yagi started by developing a "brand blueprint."

As classmates in a close-knit cohort of 18 students, Wong and Yagi came into the project familiar with each other and their individual strengths. Wong describes herself as strong in designing interactive tools, while Yagi's background is in branding. They leaned on each other to harness their strengths and deliver results on time. "I've had the opportunity to discover more about Indigenous history in Canada as well as working with Indigenous peoples," said Wong.

"For me, as a student, it's very valuable to have these real-life experiences before we graduate," said Yagi. "This is a really nice environment to be able to practice project management, time management and speaking with clients."

Deyen: An Invitation to Transform

After six months of hard work, Davis-Alphonse, Wong and Yagi organized and hosted an online celebration, attended by close to 400 people, to launch Deyen: An Invitation to Transform, a new online and interactive version of her course that allows Davis-Alphonse to teach Canadians coast to coast to coast.

Deyen is a Tsilhqot'in word for a person with the gifts to transform. Davis-Alphonse invites all Canadians to the platform to have an experience that will encourage them to transform their thinking.

"The tone of the name was really important for me. When you accept an invitation, it's a different energy," said Davis-Alphonse. "We're not here to impose anything on anyone. You don't have to learn about our history. It's an invitation to come, learn, hang out with us and spend time getting to know us."

Davis-Alphonse credits the students for being instrumental in creating Deyen. "I wouldn't have this program up without them," she said. "It's been an amazing opportunity to work with two incredibly bright students who are obviously going to go far in their careers."

Check out Deyen: An Invitation to Transform