Windspeaker: What one quality do you most value in a friend?
Paul Sayer: Kindness
W: What is it that really makes you mad?
P.S.: Ignorance and racism directed towards First Nations people.
W: When are you at your happiest?
P.S.: Many things make me happy. I am happiest when I’m with friends and family. I am happiest when I’m traveling. I am happiest when I’m winning at the casino slots but I am especially happy once I finish a good run. The natural high after a run/workout makes me feel on top of the world.
W: What one word best describes you when you are at your worst?
W: What one person do you most admire and why?
P.S.: I come from a long line of chiefs of historical importance; however, I admire two people the most: My gramma Bertha Sayers and my gramma Rose Nolan. They were both very strong, proud and respected Anishnaabe Kwe. They kept the language and culture alive at a time when it was dangerous to do so. These kind women were not only proud of their identity, but they were defiant towards those who thought our identity was something to be ashamed of.
W: What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do?
P.S.: We lost five members of our family in a car accident in August of 2001. Just trying to breathe and get through those days was difficult for all of the family. I lived in Toronto at the time and when I came home and saw my aunt. I gave her a big hug and she whispered to me “Together we will all get through this.” I am thankful for our large family.
W: What is your greatest accomplishment?
P.S.: In my final year of university I worked a full-time job at a First Nations employment agency in Toronto and went to school full time. (Four night courses and got to leave my job one morning a week to take another class). It was a real test of discipline and hard work because the in-class component was small compared to the readings and papers that I had to write outside of work hours and in-class lecture. I had to put my organizational and time management skills to good use. In the end, I managed to get higher grades in that final year and graduated with my Honours B.A. from the University of Toronto.
W: What one goal remains out of reach?
P.S.: One goal that remains out of reach for me is hitting the super jackpot on the casino slots.
W: If you couldn’t do what you’re doing today, what would you be doing?
P.S.: I would be traveling the world.
W: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
P.S.: From my earliest memories, I was always told “Be proud of who you are” (as an Anishnaabe). “Never forget where you came from” and “Get your education”.
W: Did you take it?
P.S.: Yes, I took all three pieces of advice. However, outside of my huge family, my identity as an Anishnaabe is what I am most thankful for in this life.
W: How do you hope to be remembered?
P.S.: As a good person who always defended his people no matter what.
Paul Sayer was born in Detroit, Michigan and came to Canada to get his post-secondary education at the University of Toronto. He received a double honours degree in Political Science and Criminology as well as getting his Radio and Television Broadcasting diploma from Algonquin College. When asked why he chose to study these programs, Sayers says, “My creative side led me to broadcasting. My analytical side led me to Poli-Sci/Criminology.”
While presently working in Economic Resource and Community Development for Garden River First Nations, Sayers has focused his career on the development of employment opportunities for First Nations peoples. His previous work in this area garnered him awards for “innovative outreach with First Nations and Métis communities” with Hydro One. He received the CEA Sustainable Electricity Social Responsibility Award in 2011. He says of this project, “This effort focused on increasing the awareness of Hydro One opportunities, application requirements and process for trades, technical and professional positions by creating the “Annual Aboriginal Opportunities Circle” for Aboriginal summer students. The project was also recognized as a best practice in the industry by the Aboriginal Human Resource Council.”
Sayers’ other award was the CIBC Achiever’s Award in 2008. When asked about this endeavor, Sayers tells us, it is a Team Award “for leading the CIBC Job Readiness Training program for Aboriginal women. This award recognized the team’s success in implementing and overseeing the program which was held in partnership with Aboriginal Futures of Calgary, Métis Employment Services and the Treaty 7 Economic Development Corporation.”
Sayers was raised with two brothers and two sisters by both his parents and his Grandmother Sayers, who he says he is close to then and now, and even more so now since he moved back to his community of Garden River in 2012. He says he comes from a large family on both sides and this played a huge role in his upbringing. His cultural awareness started at home and continued on through the school system with the Ojibway language being taught from Grade 1 right through to his high school completion. There were always lots of cultural activities taking place that included powwows, sweatlodge ceremonies, Elder gatherings and political rallies in support of treaty rights. He says he was very involved in his community from his earliest memories.
Sayers is a supporter of The Ted Nolan Foundation that offers the Rose Nolan Memorial Scholarship Fund to aid in the education and training of First Nations women.