Introducing Caitlyn Kerr: RAVEN’s Event Organizer and Business Outreach Coordinator

Coming from a sweet world of pastries and ice cream, Caitlyn Kerr is RAVEN’s new Event Organizer and Business Outreach Coordinator. Her experience with local bakeries and as the Assistant Kitchen Manager at Earnest’s Ice Cream set the stage for working with community in a sustainable way. Outreach to local farmers and sourcing local ingredients was a part of her inspiration to go back to school to study sustainable events management. 

She joined the RAVEN team to help organize this past summer’s 2021 Festival Afloat. The event was a fundraiser for Heiltsuk Nation, which was particularly important for  Caitlyn as she is Heiltsuk and her grandmother is from Bella Bella. After huge success with the festival – which raised $80k –  she has stayed with RAVEN and continued to grow in her position. 

We chatted with Caitlyn to find out what’s been bringing her joy in 2021, what inspires her to stand up for Indigenous sovereignty and more.

photo of Caitlyn from the bust up. She is looking off to the left and is smiling. The background is an out of focus tree and forest landscape
Photos of Caitlyn by Jamie-Leigh Gonzales

What’s your favourite part of the job so far?

“I think the overall impact. Not just my job, but all of our jobs together. That impact and the work that we do is the most exciting thing about working with RAVEN. If I had to choose a favorite part of my job, I would say it was definitely doing the Festival Afloat. And what’s coming next year: getting to continue with these fun, different fundraising concerts. But overall, just the work that we do to support these Nations and their legal rights.”

What does Indigenous sovereignty mean to you?

“The biggest thing is: there needs to be a change. Change in the system. Change in the government. And, you know, when I was up in Bella Bella, working with Susan (RAVEN’s Executive Director and Co-founder) on decorating this VIP area for the Canned Salmon Festival, I asked her what her five year goal for RAVEN is. And she said, ‘you know, the goal is for RAVEN not to have to exist: that these communities don’t need to go to court and they don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to uphold their rights.’ 

And just getting to that point and supporting one another, and these communities working together to move to a better place of learning from them. You know, if anyone in this world knows best it is the Indigenous communities. They still live on the land. The knowledge that they know, and the changes that they see: it’s just like, why aren’t we consulting them first? We need to have that change in the government. We need to have that change everywhere.”

What’s something that makes you feel connected to the Land or Water?

“Being disconnected from the digital world. Going out for a walk or for a swim, and really appreciating what the Earth has given us. Another thing that really makes me feel connected to the land kind of ties into working as a pastry chef, which is sourcing local and just taking and appreciating what the harvest has given us and teaching people. A lot of people would get upset saying, ‘Well, why do you only have this amount of something?’ And, teaching them that ‘unfortunately, because of extreme heat, a lot of the berries were sunburnt.’ Or, different things like pumpkins. Pumpkin season was a lot earlier this year and harvest started in August, I heard. So just being able to teach that. And really understand where your food is coming from. And being able to tell people that also helps me feel really connected. Because people go into the grocery store and say, ‘oh, let’s just buy this and this and this’ but, do mangoes grow in BC? No. Kiwis do though. There’s a kiwi farm in Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island, which is really unique. But yeah, those are some things that make me feel connected. And with all the flooding that’s happened, I don’t feel like people truly understand the impact that it’s going to have, and how long of an impact it’s going to have.”

a wide-angle photo of Caitlyn amongst the trees and mountains. She stands centred on a paved path at Barnet Marine Park

For your profile photo location you chose Barnet Marine Park, what is your connection to this place?

“I spent a lot of my childhood there because that’s where my grandpa grew up. So my grandpa – my mom’s dad – he would take us down there, we would just go and watch the old men crab on Sundays and enjoy ice cream. He would explain how he would swim across the inlet from the one side to the other because his brother worked over there. If they ever had to share a message he would just swim over and go tell his brother. We spent a lot of time there growing up and it just makes me feel connected to him whenever I go. He was a really big father figure for me growing up, and that’s where we spread some of his ashes. If I ever need to talk to him that’s where I go.”

What’s something that brought you joy in 2021?

“Something that brought me joy…that’s hard. There are a few things. One is getting to spend a weekend with all my siblings and my mom at my sister’s house in Vernon. We were there when the fires were really bad. And they were put on an evacuation alert. Just being there with them to support them through that and seeing my sister and brother-in-law explain to my niece and nephew ‘we might have to just go. So if we need to go, what are a few things you would want us to bring?’ And just to hear them to say ‘Well, we just need mom, dad, the dogs and our blankies.’ To see that materialistic things weren’t a concern to them – for a seven and five year old – really put into perspective of appreciating what you have. And is it really the materialistic things? Or is it the relationships? As emotional as it was, it was a lot of joy.

Another big thing that did bring me joy was being able to go to Bella Bella. And working with RAVEN and how many more connections it opened up with my family that I didn’t know that I had. So, meeting people in person or through Facebook, and just hearing them share kind words and stories about my grandma. That was also one of the best things in 2021.”

A photo of Caitlyn from the waist up in front of an out of focus background of water, forest and fog. She is laughing and looking off to the right.

What has inspired you to stand up for Indigenous rights and sovereignty?

“Definitely my heritage and seeing the impact of residential schools and the impact it had on my grandma and the impact it had on my dad and his brothers and the impact it’s had on my siblings. And another big thing is my sister Kelsey, she’s always been a very vocal person. And I am pretty shy and timid. But, seeing her and learning from her over the years, it has really helped find my voice and continue to find my voice to support Indigenous rights and sovereignty. That path is never clear. All the experiences I’ve had this year, the connections I have made are opening up a part of my being that I didn’t know that I had.”

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