Coming Into Alignment with Shayla Oulette Stonechild

Indigenous rights activist and yoga teacher Shayla Oulette Stonechild shares how she practices authenticity while emerging in the mindfulness world as a spokesperson for healing and equity.

Photo by Denita Gladeau

Shayla Oulette Stonechild reluctantly made her way through Vancouver to her first ever yoga class, coaxed by a friend. Oulette Stonechild was 19 years old and skeptical, expecting that she’d be asked to do complex postures. But, there on her mat, it was her emotions that posed the challenge. “That was the first time that I couldn’t run away from any part of my identity anymore,” she says. 

Oulette Stonechild is Nehiyaw Iskwew (a Plains Cree woman) from Muscowpetung Saulteaux First Nation, Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan, Canada. She grew up in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in a predominantly white community and says that she didn’t really reconnect to her heritage until the age of 16, when her father took his own life. Kevin Stonechild had survived the residential school system, then the prison system, in which Indigenous people are drastically overrepresented due to centuries of systematic racism enforced by colonial systems. “I started questioning a lot about my roots and what it means to be alive and what it means to be human,” Oulette Stonechild says. “I quickly found out that mindfulness is for everyone. And what you practice on the mat,…