Youth and Elder Gathering strengthens culture

Mickey Dumont

The Portage Citizen —

Feeling empowered while attending the first-ever Youth and Elder Gathering at Portage Collegiate Institute (PCI), Seth Prince declared his candidacy to be the first Indigenous Prime Minister of Canada.

It is exactly that kind of empowerment and cultural confidence building the new conference was planned to inspire.

Indigenous culture at school 2
Articulate and intelligent, Seth Prince wants to be the first Indigenous Prime Minister of Canada. Mickey Dumont/Citizen photo

First, he must graduate, but the articulate teenager said the times are changing and conferences such as the first-ever Youth and Elder Gathering here, helps bring a cultural shift in Indigenous thinking.

“This is really good for our youth to reconnect with our culture,” Prince said. “A lot of our youth don’t really know our culture, don’t speak our language, I don’t speak my language, my dad doesn’t speak his. It’s proper for s to speak our language. That was given to us by Creator. Learning about our culture is becoming increasingly important and this event is part of that sift in our thinking. We need to learn our culture and become more educated because that is how the world works,” Prince said. “We have to adapt. This way our people can get up to power and we can fight for our rights and use the book — we can do a better job by fighting from within. I am going to be the first First Nations Prime Minister of Canada”.

“Momentum is building in the Indigenous community right now and this is another way to keep going the right way,” said Jill Fast, Indigenous Academic Achievement Facilitator with the Portage la Prairie School Division. “You’re seeing lots of school divisions focussing more and more on indigenous education. It benefits all students,” she said.

The Youth and Elder Gathering featured guest speakers, presentations, keynote address and group discussions on how identity and culture helps youth on their educational journey.

Organizers built the daylong conference with the intention to inspire youth, get feedback from youth and elder “on how we can do a better job” with Indigenous education to benefit everyone.

A video screened to open the gathering impressed upon youth watching the importance of being stewards of Mother Earth — even activists — while exploring recent Indigenous involvement in the Dakotas and Fort McMurray. History was relived with a visit to Wounded Knee and its message, and also of building better communities, lives with opportunity fueled by inspiration and healing.

Fast said the conference was an idea for long time and finally “has become a reality.

“The Indigenous population here is growing, especially in our schools where 45 per cent of youth in the Portage School Division identify as Indigenous: First Nations, Metis and Inuit,” Fast said.

Dakota Tipi Education Director Cornell Pashe added the conference “is important for indigenous youth, but as important for all youth. It took some time to plan, but it is also the result of cooperation from a lot of parties.”

“We open this to Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth,” Fast said. “Non-Indigenous youth attendance will grow. This is the first time for the Youth and Elder Gathering and we hope the interest will grow every year.”

Guest speakers and elders came from Long Plain, Sandy Bay and Dakota Tipi and known to most of almost 50 students who attended.

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