A woman from Whitefish Lake First Nation in northern Alberta has become the first Indigenous woman in Canada to get her pro card in a strongwoman competition.
Angela Houle, 39, accomplished the feat on Oct. 22 when she battled it out against other amateur strongwomen in the Strongman Corporation of Canada's National Championship in Thunder Bay for the chance at a pro card.
"I worked so hard for it," Houle said. "I couldn't believe how I felt. It was like a spiritual moment for me."
Houle said it was the best she's ever performed, and she smashed her previous personal bests.
"I wanted it not just for me, but for our kids, our Indigenous youth," Houle said.
She competed in an axle press, a circus dumbbell and sandbag carry, among other events.
Houle competed against five other women to get pro status.
"I'm breaking those boundaries… for our Indigenous youth to step forward," Houle said.
Houle said likes to use her platform to help Indigenous youth and women.
Houle told CBC she is connected to her people and culture by wearing moccasins when competing and a red hand over her face to advocate for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Houle said she had Indigenous supporters at the event and it was empowering.
"I feel like I'm on top of the world," Houle said.
Colten Sloan, the first Indigenous strongman in Canada, has been training with Houle for years. The two are related, and Sloan said getting to be the first Indigenous strongman and strongwoman in Canada together has been "powerful."
"Indigenous women get cast in such a dark light, it's nice to see representation in such a positive manner," Sloan said.
Having a pro card means they are considered professional athletes and will be invited to international competitions. The pair will be going to the Arnold Classic together in 2023.
He said Houle has faced hardships, and seeing her break those barriers and succeed in the strongwoman world is "empowering."
When Houle was announced as the winner, "it was booming." Sloan said. "It was just electric watching everybody be so excited for her."
Maggie Buffalo, Houle's cousin, was watching the competition this month from her home in Alberta. The work that Houle put into training was noticeable, said Buffalo, because Houle "made it look easy."
Buffalo was there when Houle first started flipping tractor tires.
"That's what we would do for the evening," Buffalo said.
"Seeing her work hard to get better and getting her pro card has been amazing," Buffalo said.
She added that' it's important to have role models like Houle in the community.
"Especially for youth in our community to know that they can achieve their goals," Buffalo said.