Indigenous peoples have a special relationship with the earth and all living things. This leads to a path of profound spiritual connection that guides them to practice reverence, humility and reciprocity. It is a path Reiley starting walking at a young age.
Reiley currently resides on the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən Peoples, known today as the Songhees, Esquimalt, W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations community in Victoria, BC. She is a proud member of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, syilx (Okanagan) Nation. After high school, she moved to Kelowna, BC to attend the University of British Columbia Okanagan and earned a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Biology.
At a young age, Reiley was very active and into sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, gymnastics, and triathlons. “After school I often was out trekking our land and exploring traditional territory and animals and plants,” says Reiley. She was very interested in traditional foods and medicines and the harvesting of bitterroot, berries, and sage. This influenced her into pursuing a way of giving back to Mother Earth. Her Mom had a degree in agriculture and her Dad worked on the land as a field technician. They were often challenged by the “little environmentalist” in their family on environmental best practices.
Reiley’s path took an impactful turn as she took part in CIER’s Water Leaders program in grade 9. “Being connected with other youth across Canada was a great opportunity to visit their communities and see their challenges. It was very eye-opening, as these communities were much more remote, with more poverty and less opportunities,” she recalls.
This experience made Reiley want to pursue science and biology, as it aligned with her interests in water, environment, conservation, plants, and animals – and how everything is interconnected. She was motivated by the disproportionate challenges of First Nations, and wanted to learn more to help her community, and others.
After graduating from university, Reiley worked at the Student Ranger program with BC Parks where she was able to visit provincial parks and hike, camp and experience park restoration and conservation. She learned about invasive species removal, public outreach and Indigenous engagement. Reiley also participated in an Indigenous Youth Internship program. “I learned a lot about the BC Conservation Data Centre and I started a project partnering with members of the Okanagan Nation to identify and describe an at-risk Indigenous cultural ecosystem by combining western science and traditional knowledge.”
In the summer of 2022, Reiley remembered her first CIER experience which in turn caused her to apply for a CIER internship. She worked for CIER in the Pacific region and enjoyed collaborating with the team and learning about a species at-risk project that included a field guide project, data sharing, and Indigenous Knowledge agreements. Reiley then applied for CIER’s Biodiversity Associate position and she is now continuing on her path, sharing CIER’s mandate of working with and helping Indigenous communities and the issues they face.