Dawn Westlands

"My perspective comes as a woman who has always walked in two worlds with an Indigenous and non-Indigenous world view. I’m Ojibway and Metis on my mother’s side and a first generation Canadian on my father’s side. My practice has been strengthened invaluably by my work family at BCACCS as well as by each individual who has invested time mentoring me. Part of my job as a Program Manager was working with ECE students and helping them feel comfortable and confident. As an Indigenous adult learner studying to get my ECE, I had a lot of fears. I’ve always felt more comfortable in an Indigenous learning environment. After I graduated from NEC I was asked to become a member of their ECE Program Advisory Committee where I’ve contributed for over 10 years. I’ve had many students over the years and feel the Indigenous experience can be quite unique and complex due to many factors. As an FNPN member, I am continuing that work."

 DAWN WESTLANDS is a proud member of the Indigenous ECE community and the Coordinator for the National Aboriginal Head Start Association. She became a licensed Early Childhood Educator after graduating from the Native Education College in 2007 and worked at the BC Aboriginal Childcare Society between 2010 and 2022 as a Program Coordinator-Manager for their PHAC-funded Aboriginal Head Start preschool program, Eagle’s Nest.

In her role as a Program Manager, Dawn supervised licensed and aspiring ECE’s in an Indigenous-led Early Childhood program located on the shared unceded territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam First Nations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. In this very diverse neighborhood with many strengths and challenges, Dawn tapped into Indigenous cultural ways and strengths to navigate the challenges faced by staff, children, and families.

Dawn has been very fortunate to work with and be mentored by amazing cultural knowledge keepers and trailblazing matriarchs. Her role as an ECE evolved into an unexpected role and responsibility. She became extremely passionate about ensuring the practice of Indigenous ways of inclusion as a means of supporting children and families who may otherwise not be accessing early childhood settings. Another of Dawn’s passions is staff retention, recruitment, and mentorship by supporting the social, emotional, and spiritual well-being of not only the children but the Early Childhood Educators.

Dawn has been invited to sit on many ECE advisory committees that seek to include First Nations pedagogies. She represented BCACCS in working with the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council on their Early Learning and Childcare Project and as a member of the Vancouver Joint Council on Childcare. Before becoming the Coordinator of the Aboriginal Head Start Association, Dawn was an Executive Board member with AHSABC as their elected National Aboriginal Head Start Council [NAHSC] representative since 2014. In that role, she was a voice for the needs of our Urban Aboriginal Head Start sites to the federal funding office, the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Connect with Dawn Westlands

Vancouver Downtown Eastside, DW