Students at the Ermineskin Junior/Senior High School received powerful inspiration last week from Wab Kinew, a First Nations journalist and musician.
The event was held Tuesday, June 9 at the school with Kinew starting off by encouraging youths to delve into their Cree culture and history. He said recent recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made him think about the courage of his elders to recount the stories of Indian residential schools.
With telling those stories now he feels there is an opportunity to reconcile with and heal from those trying times.
“It’s not about anger. It’s not about revenge. It’s about telling the truth,” said Kinew.
His hope is First Nations youths will thrive in their personal and professional lives and suggests the world is not going to change. “We’re in a part of a globalized society,” Kinew suggested.
Taking those steps is integral in their self-fulfillment and Kinew recommends instead of waiting for someone or some legislation to help them, youths should go out into the world and reach their goals.
Referring to the residential schools, Kinew also advised youths to remember that despite not being allowed to speak their own language in many residential schools, elders kept their traditions and language alive.
Rather than wait for help from the same government that initiated the residential school system, Kinew recommends taking action to deal with personal and cultural challenges they face.
Kinew also suggests that there is much in First Nations spirituality that can be used to help solve problems in the world and youths are the ones who can bring that about.
One student asked about how to gain more knowledge of their language and culture from elders.
Kinew feels the best way is to learn as much about their language as possible and improving their vocabulary through books and the Internet. He advises daily practice and study and also striking up conversations with elders in their native tongue.
“You need to devote time to study it everyday,” said Kinew.
“Part of what it means to become an adult . . . is standing up on your own two feet,” he added.
The more people stand up to and do the right thing, while it may be scary, they will also be recognized in their community for it and will be trusted.
He sees more people on what he calls the Pow Wow Trail and finds others are bringing life to their culture and language.
“It happens because people stand up and say ‘I’m going to teach young people about our culture,’” stated Kinew.