Teaching and coaching football was what McKennitt had thought he wanted to do his entire life—until it wasn’t.
Teaching is in Daniel McKennitt’s blood. His mother is a 10-year survivor of the residential school system. Belonging to the Sandy Bay First Nation, she was one of the few members of her band to earn an education diploma from the University of Manitoba, and go back to teach on the reserve.
His uncle was one of the first Indigenous people to earn a doctor of philosophy degree at the University of Manitoba and then went on to teach. Many of his cousins and younger brother also became teachers. His eldest brother, would become a traditional dancer and teach traditional dancing in public schools and communities.
“I had the opportunity to be a student teacher and realized that it wasn’t for me,” explains McKennitt. “I shifted focus and, because of my passion for vulnerable communities, I decided to pursue something in health care.”
McKennitt decided to set his sights on medical school. And as he was completing a fifth year of undergraduate school to upgrade courses, he became aware of public health.
“I fell in love with epidemiology,” says McKennitt. “But I knew that having a medical degree would allow me to be that much more influential and equipped to tackle bigger issues. I wanted to find a path that would combine both these interests.”
And he did.
McKennitt graduated from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry in 2010 and began his residency in family medicine while taking elective rotations in public health. Realizing that having formal training in all cores areas of public health would be to his benefit, he enrolled in the master of public health program in epidemiology with the School of Public Health. Through this training, he gained necessary skills to fully address population health problems in a holistic way.
McKennitt now serves as a public health consultant for Indigenous communities, non-governmental and government organizations, academia, and private and public sector clients.
Through his work, McKennitt hopes to see a shift in the attitude of Canadians about Indigenous peoples.
“I believe Canadian society overall is beginning to acknowledge and slowly accept the truth of what happened to Indigenous peoples,” says McKennitt. “I personally believe that reconciliation has begun.”
(Last updated November, 2017)