+SPOTLIGHT | Karennenhá:wi Goodleaf



What’s your age: 23

What are your tribe(s): Kanien’kehá:ka Nation

What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you hear the word healing?

Resilience, strength, peace.

Can you tell us what you do and a bit about how you came to it?

My name is karennenhá:wi Goodleaf I from the kanien’kehá:ka nation and I currently reside in kahnawà:ke where I was born and raised. I am a kanien’kéha language teacher to amazing young children at a kanien’kéha immersion school in Ganienkeh which is located in what is now known as “New York state” I commute an hour each day to Ganienkeh but the distance is worth traveling to work at school that is not controlled by outside governments that tell you what is the right and wrong way to teach our children. I try my best to live a healthy lifestyle by eating well and keeping active by training martial arts. I have a background of Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu and am currently in training for my first fight.

How do you heal?

I noticed I started to do a lot of healing when I started to relearn my language. I felt that just being able to re-speak my language everyday like I did as a child awoke a part of me that had been sleeping for a while. I started to go out and collect our natural medicines and foods that the earth provides for us like I used to before. Just being out in the woods itself is healing by collecting all the positive energy’s from the trees, the air, the sun and all the other surroundings. It gave my mind a break from electronics and just helped me focus on what is real also being out in the gardens barefoot and feeling the warm dirt on your feet and being able to eat and grow the same foods that our ancestors have been eating for hundreds of years is a rewarding feeling.

Another big part of my life that has helped me heal a lot has been martial arts. I started martial arts initially to keep physically healthy, but it has done so much more for me. Sure, training everyday helps keep my body fat low, exercises my heart and my lungs but what it helped me with the most was my mind. I always had a bad habit of over thinking and was always trapped inside my head with negative thoughts but in martial arts you can’t be thinking about other things you have to be 100% focused on what you’re doing if not you’ll get punched/kicked in the head or submitted. During training I finally felt free from my own negative thoughts for once but then as the days went on I started to notice that I never had any more of the negative thoughts that I had before. I feel that I trained myself so much every day to only focus on what’s currently happening now in training that it stuck to me even when I wasn’t in the gym. It has definitely helped me heal my minds way of thinking.

What’s calling you right now? Do your ancestors affect what you do, how you live?

At a young age I was always taught that our ancestors had sacrificed a lot for us to be here they were killed, forced off our lands, forced into residential schools and so much more but yet I’m still here speaking my language, growing my own gardens with our traditional foods, carrying on traditions and singing our songs. I try do my best with all of these things carried on from passed generations and I may not be perfect but I’m going to keep trying every day because we’ve come to far and they have sacrificed too much to just give up.

Who are your mentors, role models?

My father is definitely a huge role model for me. He’s been through so much in his life but never once gave up. He has been through residential school where he had to endure hard times, later he was a single parent raising three young children for a while, while he was working 2 jobs. But through all of that he always showed strength and never felt bad for himself of gave excuses when things weren’t going good. He chooses to break the cycle and not become a negative statistic. He made sure to put us in the immersion schools so we could learn our language that he couldn’t learn growing up and he made sure to provide us with the proper tools to be able to carry out life as strong kanien’kehá:ka people. He always inspires to keep moving forward and encourages me with whatever I do and I’m forever grateful to have him in my life and will be forever grateful that he raised us with our kanien’kehá:ka traditions.

What drives/inspires you to keep going?

Sometimes when I’m in sparing and it’s the last round and I am so tired and can barely breath and my arms are so heavy now and I get to the point where I almost want to quit, I often think about this young girl who was attending the youth camp at the Native Wellness Institute Wellness Warrior Camp. She held a plank for 10 minutes and how she didn’t give up till she was the last one standing. I often go back to that moment in time and use that as inspiration to dig deep to find that extra push to not give up and push through that last round. What inspires me the most to keep going is that I know the next generation is watching everything we do therefore we can’t settle for anything less than what they deserve.

If you could relay a mantra, message, wisdom, ism, food for thought to Indigenous 20 somethings from the US and abroad what would you say?

I don’t believe that other people or that time heals you. I believe that people can guide you and help give you the tools for you to utilize but ultimately only you can heal you. So, don’t be afraid to take time to work on yourself. Grow through what you go through and never give up. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.