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Jennifer Bahinski

Discovering Anishnaabe roots leads to healing and sense of belonging
 
At the age of 41, Jennifer Bahinkski made a discovery that would change the course of her life forever. After taking a DNA test Jennifer found out that she had been adopted — a secret that had been kept from her all of her life. At the same time, Jennifer learned that she was part Ojibwe and part Ecuadorian. After continuing her research, Jennifer was able to connect with many family members including her birth mother whom she finally met in May of 2019.
 
On meeting her mother for the first time, Jennifer recalls, “My entire childhood I felt different, like I didn’t quite belong and that something was missing. I did not know what it was or why I had these feelings that stayed with me into adulthood. The day I met my birth mother, all of that changed. She was my missing piece and my sense of belonging that I had been searching for my entire life. At the end of our meeting I didn’t want to leave or say goodbye. She is a very special woman in my life now and we continue to build back a relationship from all of the years we lost.”
 
After meeting her mother, Jennifer realized that she needed to make changes in her life. She recalls, “It was shortly after I had reunited with my birth family that I knew that it was time to take control of my life path and seek out so many unanswered questions. Why now? What was my new purpose? Why was I given this life-changing knowledge? I knew there was a new life plan for me. I just needed guidance finding out what that was exactly and when it became too overwhelming for me to manage; I knew that it was time for help.”
 
Jennifer’s birth mother guided her every step of the way. She introduced Jennifer to a Traditional Healer and friend of the family at Anishnawbe Health Toronto. Jennifer remembers, “I met with him and he provided teachings about my culture and gave me the assurance that all my answers would come to me when I was ready. He told me that my family’s blood is full of extremely strong women before me and that they are loving, kind people. He told me that I’ve always been Anishinaabe even when I didn’t know it. It is who I am and who I’ve always been. My ancestors have been with me the entire time.”
 
At AHT, Jennifer also took part in her naming ceremony and what she felt and saw that day will remain with her forever. Jennifer shares, “My name is Thundering Eagle Woman. And each day I understand more and more about the weight and meaning that this name carries. I am growing into who I was destined to become and learning more every single day.”
 

When asked why she wanted to share her story, Jennifer explains, “part of my healing has been sharing my story so I would love to be able to help anyone else who was adopted to know there is finally healing at the end of a long road of many ups and downs to find your roots. She adds, “Anishnawbe Health Toronto was there for me when I needed them most. And after that first visit, they’ve since reached out to me and I’ve been able to meet with the Traditional Healer again. Once we can meet again in person, I hope for future visits as well.”
 
Today, Jennifer is also in a position to give back through her business Bella Lovelee Beads, a passion she took up as part of her healing journey and a way to connect with her Indigenous roots. Each month Jennifer donates a portion of her sales to Anishnawbe Health Foundation as a member of our Sweetgrass Monthly Giving Circle. “I knew one day that I would have the opportunity to give back and today is that day…and every month going forward.” Jennifer adds, “I am forever grateful for Anishnawbe Health Toronto and all the work they do for the Indigenous community and the help that they provided to me personally.”
 
To learn more about becoming a monthly donor and a member of our Sweetgrass Monthly Giving Circle, visit www.supportanishnawbe.ca/donate/sweetgrass-monthly-giving-circle/