Travis (his female persona, Desiree), is from the Ging̱olx (Kincolith) village from the Nisg̱a’a nation. He opens up about the path that lead him to become a foster caregiver to three beautiful children.
Travis is Two-Spirit and does not have a gender pronoun preference. He will be referred to in his male persona in this story.
“I feel very lucky; I had an amazing childhood living up north, our family units were very strong,” recounts Travis. “My mother was a homemaker and my father, a hunter and commercial fisherman; I was on the boat with him ever since I was able to walk. I learned early on how to clean fish and food preservation in jars, which I practice to this day.”
However, Travis was living with a secret that lead him to leave his territory in 1994. “Everyone back home knew about my sexual orientation but it was not something that was spoken about openly. I moved to Vancouver because I felt like people back home may not accept me and I wanted something that nobody there could offer me, which was companionship.” Centuries ago, Two-Spirit individuals, called Mahanak in Nisg̱a’a, were held high within their Clan Houses and community because they held both spirits within themselves, giving them a natural power. When colonization occurred, there was a total breakdown of societies and everything changed.
If I am going to live and find my purpose in life, make me ten times stronger than I ever was.
When asked what lead him to foster, Travis smiled. “It’s a long story! I always wanted to have children. When I still lived up north, I had reached out to a foster agency and was rejected; I was single, gay and Indigenous.” Travis first started caregiving for his nieces and nephews when a relative was experiencing crisis in their life. Without hesitating, Travis offered to care for them. “The first three months were difficult; I did not have enough money to get a place of my own, so I had arranged for them to sleep at my uncle’s house while I slept in my car.” Every morning, he would go to the house to cook them breakfast, do their laundry and get them ready for school; then, he would attend his college program (level 3 Red Seal training in Culinary Arts) and return at night to make them dinner and get them ready for bed. He eventually found an apartment for all of them and just when things were going well, he became very sick and collapsed; his breathing capacity was less than the size of a fist. “I was having out of body experiences and could actually hear the doctors’ conversations that there was nothing they could do other than to medicate me to keep me comfortable,” he says. One day as he was in his hospital room, he said, “If I am going to live and find my purpose in life, make me ten times stronger than I ever was”. It was around that point that he could feel the airways to his lungs opening up and his breathing capacity started to improve.
When Travis moved back to Vancouver, he became very active in the community. He sat on the board of directors for the Nisg̱a’a Ts’amiks Vancouver Society and subsequently became a Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government Representative as WSN for the Nisg̱a’a Vancouver Urban Local. He has always been passionate about child welfare and being a part of that governance body provided him with a platform to push and know more about what is happening with children in care. Travis was also volunteering at Lion’s Gate Hospital in the Neonatal Unit and was paired with a baby that had pneumonia and who was in foster care. “I was very gentle with her and would sing to her. I think the social workers noticed I had an apt caring for children and asked if I would be interested in doing relief work.”
I handed the baby back to the worker and went into my bedroom and sobbed from happiness and gratitude.
Everything changed at the Nisg̱a’a Ts’amiks Hoobiyee when he was approached by VACFSS about fostering. “I was excited about the idea but also skeptical given my prior rejection. I gave VACFSS conditions on how I wanted the process to go if they were serious about bringing me on board.” Travis says his requests were accommodated and he finished the home study and training in under three months. “I still didn’t believe it would happen until the moment that I met my first 2 sibling foster children at which point, my face and body became numb. I handed one of the babies back to the worker and went into my bedroom and sobbed from happiness and gratitude. I experienced a lot of loneliness in my life that I used to attribute to companionship, or a lack thereof, but that all went away once I started caring for these children.” Travis fosters three children; they are five, six and eight years of age and has cared for them since they were months old.
“My foster daughter really solidified things for me just by one night. It was about a year ago, we were getting ready for bed, said our prayers and songs and she turned to me and said, ‘You know, I waited a really long time for you to be born from your mommy’s tummy and for me to be born from my mommy’s tummy so that we could be together.’ That proved to me that our spirits were matched way before we were born.”
I don’t want to find my purpose just yet. That will stop motivating me to keep going
I believe I was meant to be here to open up doors, explains Travis. “I was practicing Inclusive Foster Care before it became a VACFSS policy – I have a great relationship with the children’s biological families.” Travis still does not know what his purpose in life is. “I know that my foster children are on that path and there’s a reason why I am here with them; but I don’t want to find my purpose just yet. That will stop motivating me to keep going.”