True Roots Youth Gathering

Simplify Things

Today, I watched a video that I received at the True Roots Youth Gathering. I was glad to have set some time aside to watch it. In the video at approximately 4:30, Gordon Waindubence, Grand Council Elder, Anishinabek Nation, speaks these words:

(approx 4:30) “There are so many gifts right in front of us. They are right here. Right here. But we are not picking those up. Maybe we donโ€™t know how to pick those up. Because maybe our minds are clouded right now. By a system called the Indian Act. While I like to put things simple all the time me, maybe we should just reverse those words. Maybe not Indian Act maybe we should Act Indian **smiles** Maybe that would work. Then maybe we might be able to pick up that medicine to help our friends.” —Taken from the video “Niigan Ga-Zhaamin” created by Union of Ontario Indians.

I wanted to write a post in response to Chief Atleo’s announcement to scrap the “Indian Act” but I wasn’t sure how to approach this. After hearing these words, so simple. It has become clear to me that we should all listen to our Elders more and more for guidance and advice. They make things so simple & easy to understand ๐Ÿ˜‰

Things I learned at the True Roots Youth Gathering…

  • Aboriginal people are the strongest of the strongest. We have survived genocide, cultural genocide, attempted assimilation… Guess what? We are still here. Alive and strong.

  • Aboriginal youth care. More than you think. The ones who do care make serious efforts to change what is happening to their nation, but they know they face many challenges. They just need to know that they are not alone in this fight. You/Youth belong!
  • Aboriginal Youth want to learn their culture and their language. And those who don’t want to or don’t seem to care are the ones who need it the most. Those youth are willing to help make changes today and now to help future youth.

  • Some Aboriginal youth don’t have the support in the family home to help bring positive change to their communities/nation. But they still need support.
  • An Aboriginal youth said, “History books tell lies” in one workshop. But together, they all want that to change.

The above are just a few images of the words that the youth had written at the gathering I attended this week. Later, I will try to post more or at least them all. I decided to share these few words and things I learned at the conference because it is important to know that Aboriginal youth care.

They care today. They cared yesterday. And they will continue to care.

Who ever said Aboriginal youth didn’t care or that Aboriginal youth are apathetic, didn’t open their eyes, ears, or hearts.

Stan Wesley: Leadership

Today, I attended the first day of the UCCM True Roots Youth Gathering. It was a great experience today. Tomorrow. I think know it will be the same. The youth are great. I love hearing about their educational goals and dreams.

There was also others to learn from today as well. Elders. Chiefs. Leaders. Professionals.

One thing I learned today was that “Leadership” can be learned. Yes, that’s right. Nobody is “born” a leader… Okay, maybe some people are “born-natural” leaders. But what about those people that became/become leaders who were not always born as “leader material.”

The host of the youth gathering, Stan Wesley, said today to the group that anyone can learn to be a leader.

It dawned on me that I was one of those people that learned to be a leader. I never used to be out-spoken. I was the shy, quiet girl that sat near the back of the classroom. Rarely raised my hand to answer questions in class. One teacher in Grade 11 science class even took it to the next level when I raised my hand to answer a question in class one day. I remember this day clearly because the teacher stood at the front of the classroom. Dropped his chalk. Dropped his jaw. Looked at me and said,

YOU talk!?

After that day I was even more afraid to put my hand up in class. I was in a mostly-white mostly-non-native advanced level science class. In other words, I was the only Native in this advanced level science class. I didn’t let that teacher’s reaction get to me. I continued to go to class. Mind you I continued to rarely answer questions in class. I still went. I ended up graduating from high school with the “Cultural Award” for achieving academic achievement and being involved in extra-curricular activities. Even after a car-accident where I was put back a year. Had to study harder and learn differently because of my acquired brain injury (I was in the hospital for a month, on a breathing ventilator and in a coma for 7 days, had double vision for 6 months and suffered from memory loss and today still suffer from hearing/vision loss/migraines).

The important thing here is that I didn’t let one person’s reaction get to me. I didn’t let people continue to think I had no voice. I learned the importance of education, and that is TO LEAD!

Because even though I could rarely raise my hand in class to answer questions, tomorrow I will stand in front of youth, elders, leaders, chiefs, professionals, and my peers… and lead them and guide them to inspire them and influence them on the importance of education and culture. Not just for myself, but for our entire nation!

Importance of Education?!?!

Tonight, well…for the past few nights I have been thinking about what I should say or how I should say something to a group of people. The group of people are youth. The topic is the importance of education.

What is different about this group of youth is that they are Aboriginal youth. Well, you might think, “Yeah, well they are still youth. Youth are youth and they never really do anything unless they want to.” No, youth want to do things… like dream, have goals, and be happy.

For this group of youth, I don’t think I will have to motivate them because if they are at this gathering they already have the motivation to be THERE! And they have a desire to do different than what most expected from them–most being some Canadians and them being Aboriginals.

Yes, some Canadians hate Aboriginals. Racism still exist. Stereotypes still exist. Prejudice still exist. I grew up with it and I still witness it and am sometimes directly affected by someone’s racist actions and words.

Heck, even someone said I was “ignorant” for one of my posts titled “Stuff White People Like Do”. Ironically enough, it was a white person who was telling me this. Perhaps he missed the point of the overall post and only focused on one point rather than the whole message.

Anywho, I came across this opinion piece titled Why Aboriginal Education is Our Business in the Globe and Mail.

I like how this piece tells its readers that education “inspires young people.” My belief is that if a youth can dream, a youth can be inspired.

But how do you tell Aboriginal youth the importance of education, when some of them don’t even have a school to attend. Just take a look at Shannen’s Dream.

And how do you tell Aboriginal youth the importance of education, when as Urban Native Girl posted on her Facebook page,

โ€Ž”Only 8% of Aboriginal people aged 25 to 64 in Canada have a university degree compared to 23% of non-Aboriginals of the same age group.”

And how do you tell Aboriginal youth, the importance of education when Aboriginal history and culture is almost completely removed from curriculum/education plans. Aboriginal people–the first peoples of Canada.

I believe my greatest challenge next week will be to inspire an entire group of Aboriginal youth the importance of education but only because Aboriginal people including Aboriginal children do not enjoy this supposed basic Canadian right. In the year 2011.

And if I can’t inspire the entire group, I shall work towards inspiring at least one.

More to come on this journey!