When massive floods in June 2013 ravaged southern Alberta, ruining her family home on the Siksika Nation and destroying many of her own belongings, Carrissa Lowhorn immediately rolled up her sleeves to volunteer and help those in need. Today, she’s bringing that same determination to her job with TransCanada’s Aboriginal Relations team.
Lowhorn, a recent graduate from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Indigenous Studies, has been a valuable addition to TransCanada. She originally joined the company as a summer student, but quickly proved that she had a lot more to contribute. She’s had an immediate impact and has been involved in numerous projects including TransCanada’s new Aboriginal First Response Initiative and TransCanada’s submission about Aboriginal participation in pipeline safety, which is being reviewed by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“I really enjoy my job and believe in TransCanada’s approach that recognizes the significance of the land and traditions of First Nations people and the importance of building relationships based on mutual respect and trust.”
— Carrissa Lowhorn, TransCanada Aboriginal Relations
While working on her degree over the past few years, Lowhorn has also been a successful national and international pageant competitor. The floods hit just before her journey to the Miss Tourism Planet pageant in Greece.
She was torn between staying to help her struggling family and community, and leaving to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime pageant opportunity. Her grandmother persuaded her to go to Greece in honour of the many people who had supported her. Upon her return from Greece, Carrissa immediately picked up where she left off and continued to help with flood-relief efforts in her community.
Pageants provide a platform to inspire others
Scouted by Miss Canada Globe Productions as a pageant participant in 2011, Lowhorn was crowned Miss Southern Alberta. She went on to achieve the Miss Canadian Scholarship Ambassador title and represented Canada in the Miss Tourism Planet pageant held in Athens. Lowhorn’s openness and respect for those around her is obvious. She was crowned Miss Cosmopolitan – the competitor with the most familiarity and ease with many different cultures.
For Lowhorn, involvement in pageantry has provided an opportunity for personal development and – equally important – the chance to inspire others to fulfill their potential. Once shy about meeting people, she now confidently enters rooms full of strangers and gives speeches encouraging others to pursue their dreams.
“Pageantry gave me a voice to speak about issues that are truly important to me,” says Lowhorn.
“As Miss Canadian Scholarship Ambassador I not only received a scholarship to help with my own education, but I’ve been able to speak at schools, including in my own community, to advocate for education. I really want to inspire youth to do their best.”
— Carrissa Lowhorn
Today, Lowhorn is working hard to raise awareness for Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity that heals children’s smiles and changes their lives. At a recent meeting hosted by TransCanada’s Aboriginal Relations department for Professional Aboriginal Women in Industry (PAWI), Lowhorn was able to raise awareness for the cause.
“I did a presentation on my pageant, education and volunteer journey and was able to raise dollars and awareness for Operation Smile during the meeting.”
Heeding her grandmother’s words
Lowhorn’s grandparents were both from the Siksika First Nation, but left while her grandfather served in the U.S. army.
They travelled extensively including a seven-year posting in Germany – however they wanted their children to stay in touch with their First Nation family and culture and returned to Siksika when her grandfather retired from the military. Lowhorn grew up in the home her grandfather built on the Bow River and that home was severely damaged by the June floods.
“I was raised by my grandmother,” says Lowhorn. “She shared so many stories about their travels and always told me she wanted me to pursue my education and to travel the world as she did.”
Her grandmother’s advice helped instill Lowhorn’s passion for education. She plans on pursuing graduate studies, but in the meantime, she continues to volunteer in her community. Lowhon was a guest speaker at the 14th Annual First Nations Entrepreneur Youth Symposium — and encouraged young people in her community to pursue their dreams.
Bringing her passion for education to TransCanada
Robert Kendel, Director of Aboriginal Relations for B.C. and Alberta, says that Lowhorn’s passion for education and dedication to community is evident in her work.
“Carrissa brings a positive attitude and a love of learning with her to TransCanada. She has been such an important member of our team,” says Kendel. “Talking about education and community is one thing, but to actually live it, and be a role model for others, is something extraordinary and rare.”
It’s people like Carrissa that are truly dedicated to having a positive influence in the lives of others, that makes our Aboriginal Relations team outstanding. We believe that it is important to continually communicate with communities, engage on our activities, and follow through on our commitments; and it’s employees like Carrissa that are leading the way and ensuring we do.”
Beginning April 28, visitors to Lowhorn’s Miss Universe Canada finalist profile can cast their votes up to four times daily to see Lowhorn represent Canada in the 2014 Miss Universe Pageant. She will be competing in Toronto between May 17 and 25. Another way to support Lowhorn is with a pledge for Operation Smile she can arrange by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about TransCanada’s Community, Aboriginal and Native American Relations program, visit TransCanada.com.