I attended the Feathers of Hope Youth forum yesterday as a panelist where I accepted a role as a champion advocate, one I am looking forward to, in which I can learn just as much from the young ones as they might learn from me. I met various Anishinaabe youth from Six Nations, Kettle Point, Walpole Island, Moose Factory, Pic River, Fort Severn, Fort Hope, Naicatchewenin, Whitefish Bay, Shoal Lake and various other Northern and Southern communities, it was to say the least a gathering of Nations, a gathering of the most important kind, of young vibrant leaders who will lead our Nation in the coming years.
I watched a young man from Big Trout Lake present himself to the audience in a ribbon shirt, hair tied back, carrying a beautiful smile followed by a powerful speech in his Oji-Cree language, expressing to the audience that his elders taught him to speak in the language and to keep it strong, a teaching he obviously endorses and practices. I watched groups present their message through music, poems, skits and some through tears, reliving by retelling their personal hardships of living on the reserve.
I watched a young man from Walpole Island sing a song with his hand drum, a beautiful young voice that knows no other, than to be optimistic about the future. He communicated to the audience the world in his view and the changes that need to be made, he did so with a perfect assembly of words and charisma. His message was powerful, concise and to the point as it brought many in the audience to tears.
It was a powerful and moving experience to have these young people plead to us the principles of leadership as they see them. It was a grassroots message delivered by grassroots advocates. I say grassroots because these kids are living it, they are slopping the pails, so to speak, they are enduring the hardships of living on the reserve and they are overcoming obstacles everyday most will never understand. This makes them stronger and louder, a voice that will not go unheard.
I look forward to seeing what becomes of these young loud spirits, anxious to make a difference, unknowing that they already made a difference in mine. I know that many of these young people will go on to become professionals in different fields and many will become chiefs, grand-chiefs, MPP’s, MP’s and maybe even Prime Minister. I believe the panel I sat on shared the common understanding that it is our duty to get them there, by ensuring that we fight today for the things they will need tomorrow. If the Youth I met yesterday is an indication of today and tomorrow, than I can say with confidence that our future is bright and optimistic.