Gabrielle Senft has a lot on the go.
Over the past few years, she’s had to juggle a professional rugby career, finishing her degree at the University of Victoria and reconnecting with her Metis heritage.
Originally from Regina, her great-great-grandmother Justine Cardinal was born in St. Laurent and was baptized by Louis Riel. Her parents were from the Red River Settlement, now Winnipeg, but Senft and her parents grew up relatively unaware of their Metis heritage because Cardinal never discussed it. Senft still doesn’t know which band she was from.
Senft started doing research with her mom and began the process (a long one, she said) of getting her status card, which she got five years ago.
“It’s still a bit sensitive to talk about in our family still but my mom and I have kind of gone on our own path to try and find our history and what our tribe was and went to libraries to find old newspapers or family things we could find essentially. So it’s been pretty neat, but also still a lot to learn and to know.”
Senft said she didn’t make a big deal of announcing it, but when her teammates realized they were supportive.
“Obviously, with everything going on in the world now – in Canada – we’re taking more acknowledgement and recognition of Indigenous Peoples which is awesome. In Saskatchewan, I grew up a little bit in it but then again, it was still very removed from my upbringing, which makes me really sad and a bit lost and disconnected.”
Senft hopes in the future she’ll be able to visit Metis nation members in Winnipeg and reconnect with her heritage – although she’s likely got a busy schedule ahead. She has spent a lot of years travelling between Victoria to complete semesters at university and seasons of professional rugby with teams in England and Australia.
Senft made her debut with Canada in 2018 against England and has played 10 times for the national team since then, most recently in their Pacific Four Series 22-10 win against Australia on June 18. With the World Cup on the horizon, she’s knuckling down and focusing on preparations with her teammates.
“We have a big summer of ball centralization and a lot of girls sacrificing and committing to the team. Maybe that means not working and that’s what it’s like being a female athlete sometimes. But we’ve all committed to being with each other all the summer. So we have one week off, and we go back into training full time leading into the World Cup.”