Kendal's Blog

From Social Assistance to Success: The Power of Connection and Perseverance

There emerged a beacon of hope in the form of a friend named Johann, whose family’s kindness illuminated the path ahead.




Moments of connection often weave the most profound threads into our stories. For me, one such thread began in the humble town of Cut Knife, Saskatchewan, where the landscape stretched wide, and dreams seemed as distant as the horizon.

I recall the uncertainty of those early days, feeling like an outsider in a world where familiarity was a luxury. But amidst the apprehension, there emerged a beacon of hope in the form of a friend named Johann, whose family’s kindness illuminated the path ahead.

Johann, a spirited companion on the soccer field, became more than just a friend; he became a lifeline, bridging the gap between my past and the possibilities of the future. His family’s generosity knew no bounds, extending far beyond the confines of a playing field.

I remember the pivotal moment when Johann’s family reached out a helping hand, lifting the weight of financial burden from my shoulders. Their selfless act of paying for my soccer fees and providing transportation not only opened doors but widened my perspective on what was achievable.

In Johann’s home, I discovered more than just material comforts; I found inspiration. Witnessing the warmth of family dinners and the encouragement of Johann Senior instilled within me a belief that transcended circumstance. Their belief in my potential became the catalyst for transformation, igniting a fire within to strive for something greater.

As I reflect on those formative years, I am reminded of the power of empathy and understanding. It was not wealth or privilege that defined Johann’s family but rather the richness of their compassion and willingness to uplift others. Their actions taught me that true wealth lies in the bonds we forge and the impact we have on one another’s lives.

Armed with newfound resilience and a sense of purpose, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement. From humble beginnings in a one-bedroom apartment to the stages of entrepreneurship and keynote speaking, every step forward was a testament to the lessons learned and the support received along the way.

Through dedication and perseverance, I transformed adversity into opportunity, turning setbacks into stepping stones toward success. But perhaps the greatest lesson gleaned from my experiences is the importance of never losing sight of one’s roots and the responsibility to uplift others as we climb.

Today, as I stand before you, I am reminded of the words spoken by Johann’s family: “Always be the knowledge seeker, the sponge.” In a world fraught with challenges, it is our insatiable thirst for knowledge and our willingness to connect with others that will illuminate the path forward.

So let us embrace the power of connection, lift each other up, and strive to be beacons of hope in the lives of those around us. For it is through collective effort and unwavering determination that we can turn dreams into reality and rewrite the narratives of our future.

As I extend my hand in friendship and solidarity, I invite you to join me on this journey of growth and transformation. Together, let us build a world where kindness knows no bounds and where every individual has the opportunity to thrive.

I remember my Grade three classroom.

I was very uncomfortable walking into that room.

I didn’t realize I spoke about different things.

I had an accent.

I talked about different things.

No one knew who my Kookum was, all these different things.

And finally, I noticed there was a commonality.

The commonality was sport.

I liked to play soccer.

These kids played soccer.

We met on the soccer field.

When we were on the soccer field, something beautiful took place.

After about three, four days, I’d be on the field just walking around, because I was too scared to go play with them.

I’d be at recess at lunch, listening, putting my head down, going back to my childhood programming of being a sponge.

And I’d listened to all these conversations at recess, at recess during the spare time.

And I’d realized a lot of these kids come from farms.

They come from farming background, and I was starting to listen to these conversations of what they talked about.

And I remember one day I just wanted to go play.

So I started cutting myself in to play soccer.

I said, “Hey guys, how’s it going?

How much rain you get last night?

How are the crops doing?

A lot of crops, right?”

I didn’t know what I was talking about, but these kids talked about these different things.

I didn’t even know what a crop was.

I didn’t know what cultivating was, combining.

Still don’t actually.

But I took the time to understand what they were interested in.

And you know what happened?

I started to play with them.

During that time together.

They said, “Hey, Kendall, where are you from?”

I’d say, “I’m from Sweetgrass.”

“Where’s that from?”

“It’s about 10-15 minutes away.”

“Oh, right, I think I passed through there to North Battleford.”

I was like, “That’s right. That’s where I live.”

And I started opening up to them, telling them about my life, where I came from.

I only have mom in the household.

We’re living on social assistance.

There’s no jobs back home.

Very few people have transportation.

A lot of people are living on social assistance.

There’s no Ecdev back home.

There’s no entrepreneurship at that time.

We’re living, unfortunately, off of a dependency of social assistance many of us.

Very hopeless environment.

I can go back and show you where that comes from.

Read a book, 21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act and how that’s impacted Indigenous people to this day.

Some of these rules are still in place today that stop us from being independent as nations.

And these are things that we’re still overcoming to this day.

We couldn’t become educated.

We couldn’t even leave our reserves.

So when I’m up here, I’m honoring as best I can, what I hope that they would’ve wanted me to share up here.

But there was a kid named Johann.

Him and his family really impacted me.

Johann one day said, “Kendall, why aren’t you playing soccer with us after school?”

And I have to tell Johann, I said, “You know what, Johann?”

I was embarrassed.

“I don’t even have a vehicle.

I don’t have 50 bucks to pay this fee.

My only ride is that bus back and forth to my reserve that drops me off every day.

We’re living on social assistance.

We collect cans and bottles.

We pawn our belongings just so I can come to school.”

I was really ashamed to talk about this stuff when I was a kid, because when as a kid, you just want to be accepted by people.

It’s very much true in our adult lives, but in a different form.

We want to do good work and be accepted by people.

We need that validation from people to help us to step into another level.

So Johann and his family saw a kid in me.

They saw a human being.

Johann told his parents what I told them.

The next day, Johann and his family paid for my soccer fees.

They started driving me to my reserve out of their way, really empowering me.

They said, “Kendall, come to our house on the weekend.”

So I remember going to these kids’ houses.

It wasn’t just Johann’s house, but a few other kids from different farms would ask me to go and visit.

And when I’d go there, I’d be like, “Oh my gosh, you have your own room.

You guys have all these meals every day.”

I was like, “Man, this is nice.”

Some people had beautiful homes and I’d be like, “Wow, maybe one day I could have this for myself.”

So my mind’s expanding.

Where we want to get to, our mind has to expand and grow because when it expands, it doesn’t go back.

It wants more of that expansion.

We’re meant to grow.

We’re meant to move.

We have to push ourself.

On the weekends, I’d be at Johann’s house.

His dad became a role model to me, Johann Senior.

Two Johann’s, a little confusing some days.

And Johann Senior used to say, “Hey, Kendall, good job today, young man.

Hey, Kendall, I like the way you addressed to the young man.

Hey, Kendall, great job,”

uplifting me with words.

Two years later, Johann and his family had to move away.

Before they move away, they gifted my mom a set of car keys, a vehicle they weren’t taken to this city.

Now my mom is driving me to play sport, and it compounded to go and to eventually to finish high school, going into college in Northern Alberta, going back and completing two degrees.

Starting my company, Neechie Gear out of a one bed apartment.

Meeting my wife as a full-time student, now sharing two children together.

Both coming from intergenerational trauma, trying to heal together and work together in unison so our children don’t have to carry that burden.

The leaders are the ones who take on the most.

That’s why it’s important that you’re always helping yourself, checking if you’re okay up here, it’s okay to not be okay, but you have to communicate that with your loved ones and continually work on yourself.

I always tell people, everyone should have someone that’s in the form of a counselor, someone that you can talk to, because we’re losing our ability to communicate effectively with our smartphones taking over our communication systems.

We don’t do this to check on one another enough.

We don’t sit in the same room talking to each other enough.

And our children are going to be impacted even more.

That’s why I believe there’s even greater mental health crisis right now.

When you speak your problems, when you speak your feelings, you are evaporating what’s holding you down?

And a lot of our kids nowadays are just doing this.

We’ve lost this.

We have to let it out some in a healthy form.

Me and my wife met in university.

I didn’t realize that I was going to start a business in that apartment.

Had this idea to create a brand that would help kids the way that Johann and his family helped me.

And I said, “I want to help my people one day.”

That was my goal.

I didn’t know how to start.

When you don’t know how to do something, you go find someone that knows it and you learn from them.

You go find someone that you can learn from, you take notes, you value their time.

So I used to sit in empty classrooms and I would present practice a business pitch, getting up on a stage.

I used to go to workshops in the evenings, on the weekends in the business college, and I would learn about how to write a business plan.

Didn’t know what I was doing, but I was able to write a business plan.

I was able to learn how to present, and I would get and force myself to go to these competitions.

And we started winning seed money to grow this company from a one bedroom apartment.

And from that one bedroom apartment growing into a kiosk to a little office to our own stores.

Then we had multiple stores.

Then I started to wholesale, do custom orders, distribute, and I started to do stuff online.

And people said, “Kendall, come and share your story.”

So I started my life as a keynote speaker.

In 2015 I had to dive two feet into it, and I said, “This is what I’m going to do now.”

I put all of my energy into it.

I had to hire the best coaches in the world.

I had to fly places.

I had to invest and get into my credit card just to go and learn from the best of the best.

I knew these investments would pay off in the future.

It’s uncomfortable in the moment, but if you could see an outcome, that’s all you’re going to need.

Little by little, it compounded and it brought all of us here today.

It’s not a coincidence we’re sharing this moment.

And I hope that today that the time we’ve shared, I hope it’s been meaningful.

Please connect with me on LinkedIn if you’d like.

I’m here to answer your questions.

If there’s a question in regards to Indigenous topics that I’ve discussed today, working together mindset, please ask me on LinkedIn.

I’m an open book.

I invite you to connect.

I want to leave you with, I would say that one of the most impactful things that I can share with you, always, always, always dedicate yourself to being the person that is the knowledge seeker in your group, that is the sponge.

They say, knowledge is power.

It creates a light around you.

It creates the energy.

And when you apply it and you use it in certain scenarios, you become very resourceful, very valuable.

With gratitude and determination,

hiy hiy


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