Elle-Máijá’s story

How UBC released a creative passion and inspired a storyteller's voice.

Elle-Máijá’s story
CategoryAlumni
NameElle-Máijá Tailfeathers
FromBlood Tribe, Blackfoot Confederacy and Sámi | Alberta, Canada
ProgramFirst Nations Studies, minor in Women's and Gender Studies

Groundbreaking filmmaker, actor, and storyteller. Advocate of diverse First Nations representation. Lover of all things Vancouver. 

Why did you choose UBC?

After moving to Vancouver to pursue a career in acting, I fell in love with the city, the landscape, and the people. A few years into my acting career, I gave in to my grandmother’s suggestion to continue with my education. My grandparents, who were fundamental in shaping my worldview, have always been strong advocates of education – especially for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples. As my grandfather says, “Education is the only way out of our current situation as Aboriginal peoples.” I took their advice and chose to go back to school. Not wanting to leave Vancouver and my work as an actor, I chose UBC.

How did you choose your area of study?

In my first semester, I decided to take a diverse course load in the humanities. Soon, I became hooked on First Nations Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. Both programs challenged me to think critically about systemic injustice. Furthermore, I also related to both programs on a personal level. Ultimately, it was the talented instructors, supportive staff, and incredible community in the First Nations Studies Department that led me to choose a Major in First Nations Studies, opting for a Minor in Women’s and Gender Studies.

Tell me about your involvement in the Global Indigenous Conference and your work with the First Nations Longhouse.

My Work Study position with the First Nations Longhouse was truly an amazing opportunity to practice my filmmaking and interviewing skills. In all honesty, this job was the best job I have ever had. I learned invaluable skills and worked with an amazingly supportive team at the Longhouse; I’ll carry those memories with me for the rest of my life.

Then, me and seven other students organized the first Global Indigenous Conference, dedicated to discussing globalization and its effect on Indigenous peoples. Over 250 people attended the two-day meeting.

We had guest speakers from all over the world, including two activists from Peru who were featured in The Nature of Things documentary “The Real Avatar.” David Suzuki was even our keynote speaker. The conference also generated critical dialogue on issues universal to all Indigenous peoples and fostered new networks for many people.

How has UBC prepared you for your career?

As an actor, I often found myself frustrated with the mainstream film industry.  I was continuously confronted with material that in no way represented me as an Indigenous woman. Many of the stories and the diversity of voices I recognized and knew to be true were absent from mainstream film and television. While at UBC, I was introduced to the history of Indigenous misrepresentation in popular culture and media, and how this issue remains pervasive and damaging today. Guided by the groundwork of past generations of Indigenous artists and grounded in these fundamental understandings, I was able to approach film and media in a whole new way – in which I was in control of the stories I wanted to tell and the ways that I wish to be represented.

How has UBC helped you fulfill your aspirations?

Before UBC and the First Nations Studies program, I hadn’t even considered the possibility that I could pursue a career in filmmaking. After being introduced to the world of independent Indigenous cinema, I realized there was so much more out there for me. I could be a storyteller in ways I had never imagined. I also had the opportunity to meet people from many different backgrounds. Through those relationships – big or small, I was able to see and understand the world in fresh ways. Now I’m four years into my career as a filmmaker (and sometimes an actor) and I couldn’t be happier with the path I’ve chosen.

Latest Stories

Previous
Peter I standing on stairs at UBC Okanagan

Transitioning from Nigeria to the Okanagan

A Computer Science student in the Faculty of Arts, Peter gets to pursue what he loves at UBC Okanagan
student

Transitioning from Nigeria to the Okanagan

"Coming out of high school, I knew I absolutely loathed physics, wanted to avoid math at all costs, and loved solving complex problems with computer science. As such, finding out about the Computer Science major in the Bachelor of Arts at UBC was monumental for me because it meant that I could tailor my degree to prioritize my strengths and help me avoid my weaknesses." - Peter I., Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science
Abby with her laptop on the UBC Okanagan campus

Embracing new opportunities

Management student Abby on discovering her passions at UBC Okanagan
student

Embracing new opportunities

"The ability to be in a smaller tight-knit community while having access to the resources of a larger intuition is a large reason as to why I chose the Okanagan campus. I love being a big fish in a small pond and getting to pursue different opportunities in a competitive yet supportive environment has allowed me to put myself out there, learn from my mistakes, and more importantly try again! I also love that I’m not just a number, my faculty and professors know me by name and we’re able to have meaningful conversations about their research, shared interests, and their journey of getting to where they are today." - Abby N., Bachelor of Management
Jamie walking outside the Longhouse on the Vancouver campus

Inspired to become a better person

How Jamie has connected her Kinesiology degree with her Indigeneity
student

Inspired to become a better person

"When I chose to study Kinesiology at UBC, I knew I wanted to find ways I could connect my degree with my Indigeneity. Throughout my degree I have been a member of multiple committees that promote equity and diversity for Indigenous peoples, taken courses directly related to Indigenous health & wellness, and have learned from numerous Indigenous professors and mentors in Kinesiology. All of these experiences have strengthened my desire to use my degree to connect with community and advocate for Indigenous representation in health and physical activity spaces." - Jamie C., Bachelor of Kinesiology
Danielle G UBC Okanagan Geography student

Pursuing a second degree in Human Geography

Danielle’s experiences as a Geography student UBC Okangan
student

Pursuing a second degree in Human Geography

"As someone who is interested in the humanities and social sciences, an Arts degree at UBC was perfect for me as it allowed me to broaden my knowledge through a variety of different classes, while gaining the necessary requirements for my career goals and graduate school." - Danielle G., Geography
Sophie H. on the Okanagan campus

Exploring cultural theory and social change

UBC Okanagan Arts student Sophie on the power of a Cultural Studies degree
student

Exploring cultural theory and social change

“It is one thing to identify what is wrong with this world, but it’s another to see how people are managing to live and finding joy within it. Because this is where the changes are happening.” - Sophie H., Cultural Studies

Choosing research in Nursing at UBC Okanagan

How Nursing student Dresya is tackling late detection of breast cancer to improve patient outcomes.
student

Choosing research in Nursing at UBC Okanagan

"The program pushes me to redefine what it means to be a 'nurse' daily. There has not been a day where I have not learned something new. Whether it is delving into the pathophysiology of a disease or acquiring a new clinical skill, the learning never stops. In my experience, the program at UBC Okanagan also understands the profound importance of people in nursing. It pushed me to look beyond mastering the scientific basis of nursing, and incorporate the patient's lived experiences into the care I provide." - Dresya D., BSN

Helping Indigenous communities through Nursing

How Ashley made the career change from marketing to nursing, with the aim of making a positive difference within the Indigenous community.
student

Helping Indigenous communities through Nursing

"Once I complete my schooling, my aim is to work closely within the Indigenous population. My passion lies in patient-centered care and ensuring cultural safety, and I'm eager to make a meaningful impact in these areas." - Ashley H., Bachelor of Science in Nursing

An artist's journey to building community

How UBC Okanagan Fine Arts student Ziv fosters community among UBC's international students as an International Peer
student

An artist's journey to building community

"As an International Peer, I aim to introduce the supportive and inclusive environment UBC has for new students to thrive in. I hope to foster a sense of community and belonging among the international student population, because building connections and relationships is crucial to a positive university experience." - Ziv W., Bachelor of Fine Arts
next