The first time Monica Cyr [BSc(HNS)/15] heard someone refer to her as “the Indigenous nutritionist” she was surprised. “Who me?” she laughed.
It’s true that her two passions, nutrition and Indigenous knowledge, converged in her final undergraduate year at the University of Manitoba; she even received a research grant to study traditional foods in Winnipeg’s Indigenous community. But she hadn’t set out to become an Indigenous nutritionist.
In her twenties, Cyr had a well-paying career in the financial sector. The job allowed her to support her mother and her young daughter, Sadie. But after 10 years of crunching numbers, she felt unfulfilled. She craved change.
“I wasn’t listening to my spirit voice,” she says.
What she actually wanted was to help people live healthy lives. She wanted to be a dietician. Cyr walked away from the banking job and enrolled in human nutritional sciences in the Faculty of Human Ecology.
It was the right decision. Everything was going as planned until her final year when Cyr lost her internship placement—a critical step in being certified as a dietician in Canada.
“I was sure I was meant to be a dietician and here everyone around me was telling me that the Creator must have something else in mind for me,” she says of that difficult time.
Uncertain what to do next, Cyr was inspired by associate professor Joyce Slater [MSc/92, PhD/09], her mentor in human nutritional sciences, who pointed out she had already started down another, more rewarding, path.
While pursuing her goal of becoming a dietician, Cyr was also connecting with her Métis history, culture and traditions.
“It’s ironic that I had to go to university to learn about my own people,” she says.
The more Indigenous studies courses she took, the more she began to bridge nutrition and Indigenous knowledge.
Cyr begins graduate studies this fall to continue her research in Indigenous food systems in an urban context. She aims to broaden the scope of nutritional science, approaching food from a more holistic perspective that includes preparation, tradition, spirituality and meaning.
“I’m going to be able to do so much more. I’m going to create real change.”