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Brave New Aboriginals

CALEDONIA, Ont. - Lynnette Jamieson Maracle and Jarrod Van Every are two young Mohawk Indians ready to storm into the trucking world.Recent graduates of KRTS driving school in Caledonia, Ont., they're...

CALEDONIA, Ont. – Lynnette Jamieson Maracle and Jarrod Van Every are two young Mohawk Indians ready to storm into the trucking world.

Recent graduates of KRTS driving school in Caledonia, Ont., they’re armed with a pocketful of job references and looking for work.

“I’ve got three young kids at home so I’m looking to drive locally to start,” says Maracle.

“Maybe a dump truck or a water truck for now. If things work out, I’d like to buy my own water tanker eventually and drive for myself one day.”

But 27 year old Van Every is thinking about running long haul. “I know a few guys who live in Canada and drive for a U.S. company. So maybe I’ll try that,” he says.

“When they ask me my nationality at the border, I tell them, ‘Six Nations,’ because we’re a sovereign nation. I’m a citizen of North America, not the U.S.A. or Canada.”

Kim Richardson, president of KRTS thinks that there are huge opportunities for Native drivers.

“The unique ability to cross the border because of their Native status makes aboriginal truckers a highly sought-after commodity with major trucking firms,” he says.

“In this business especially, time is money and the quicker a driver can get his load across the border the better.”

Yvonne Beaver, employment councilor at GREAT (Grand River Employment and Training) agrees that a driver’s Native status is an asset to a trucking firm. “We get calls from employers and they specifically mention border crossing,” she says.

Located in Ohsweken, Ont. in the heart of the Six Nations Reserve, GREAT has been providing training and education programs to band members on behalf of Human Resources Canada for the last decade.

In the last five years it has provided funding for 45 aboriginal trainee drivers, placing the majority of them with KRTS.

“But this community has always had an interest in trucking. I remember guys running long distance out of here 25 years ago.”

Point of fact, three out of the 13 students in Maracle and Van Every’s class were aboriginal, and two of those were women.

Maracle, herself, has worked as an apprentice pipefitter and backhoe operator.

She was employed as a social worker and was a few courses shy of her Bachelor of Arts degree when the trucking bug finally caught up with her.

“My father was an iron worker and he took me with him to the Catskill Mountains on a job once when I was about 13,” she says.

“I got to playing around in the cabs of the trucks that hauled the steel and I realized this wouldn’t be such a bad job. I’ve always liked driving and working with my hands,” she says.

Van Every and Maracle were impressed with the thoroughness of the six week course at KRTS.

“They showed us a little bit of everything,” says Van Every, “like how to use tie down bars and secure loads. Confidence is the important thing, especially when you’re handling a big truck in city traffic.”

“The first time I drove an 18-wheeler through Hamilton, I couldn’t believe it was me doing it,” adds Maracle.

“But my favourite part was the skid school in Marshall, Michigan. You’d be driving towards pylons and at the last second a light would come on telling you which way to turn.”

As part of the program, their class was also taken to Fort Erie, Ont. and shown customs procedures.

As well, both grads received their fork lift operator licences as part of their training package.

“I see certain small advantages for being an aboriginal single owner operator,” says Van Every.

“There is also a system of grants and loans available to new Native businesses and I intend to take advantage of them.”

More importantly, Van Every is looking forward to travelling and meeting new people.

“It’s important for us to get out and see the world and show people who we are. I’d love more than anything to go down to Texas or California and tell people, I’m from Six Nations, Iroquois Confederacy, that’s my home,” says Van Every.

“We’re proud to be who we are and not many people can say that. I’m proud to be a Mohawk Indian.”

Maracle hopes to see more women driving commercially. “Come on out and join us,” she says.

“Some transport companies on the reserve are going to be doing some hiring.”

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