Indigenous Youth are Inspiring Treaty 7 Territory

Story Shared by Dolly Hussey 

Earlier this month I attended Forward Summit West and Workforce Forward at the Grey Eagle Event Centre on the Tsuut’ina Nation. Over the two-day conference, I had the opportunity to listen to many Indigenous Peoples about how we can all advance Economic Reconciliation.   Amongst the many inspiring stories being shared, the highlight of the Forward Summit for me was the Indigenous Youth panel. 

Four local Indigenous high school students took to the stage in front of hundreds of attendees, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who gathered from across Turtle Island. These bright and brave young panelists shared their research and personal insights on the challenging topics of mental wellness, the opioid crisis, inequity in education and walking in two worlds, and how these issues affect them as Indigenous youth. 

For me the key teachings were: 

  • Mental Wellness: Highlighted the importance of holistic practices and increased advocacy and awareness on mental health issues and the need to reframe that Mental Wellness and Learning Differences are gifts we carry, not flaws. 
        • Opioid Crisis: Highlighted the crisis in many Indigenous communities and as part of this crisis we need to consider such difficult topics as policing, incarceration, overprescribing and creating more culturally safe spaces for kids. 
        • Inequity in Education: Highlighted some of the statistics around parental income and parental education and how they are related to post-secondary attendance; and the need to address the gaps in Indigenous youth attending post-secondary education. 
        • Walking in Two Worlds: Highlighted some of the challenges for youth not raised in community. We were reminded that  we all need to take initiative and take responsibility for Two-Spirit folks inclusion and eventually move past inclusion and into ethical spaces. 

        In the words of the Honorable Murray Sinclair “Our children do not set out in life to fail. They want to be someone. We have to be the someones they want to be. We have to tell them about those of us who have come from the same ground they stand upon, who have the same kinds of community, parents and history that they have, and who look just like them, who are someone. We have to make them believe in us and we have to train them how to become someone and we have to let them try. …then we have to create the blankets with which we can wrap them when they stumble and fall, and we have to love them enough to help them get up and walk again.” 

        I am grateful to learn from these four young panelists and for their vulnerability, brilliance and hope for a future where Indigenous youth are welcomed, heard and included; and, I am proud that the Rise Impact Program supports Indigenous youth and their education through our contributions to Indspire’s Building Brighter Futures Bursary Program.  

        The image above is from the Shawl Project – learn more here.