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Cote FN youth create, release public service announcements

Chief George Cote expressed profound pride in the students’ work, noting the powerful impact of their voices.
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During a PSA that went into what Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex youth would like to see changed and corrected in their community, a variety of strong imagery was used.

COTE FIRST NATION — The Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex hosted a significant event on June 17, unveiling a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) created by students with the assistance of the Pathfinder’s Film Institute.

The event was attended by notable figures including Chief George Cote of Cote First Nation, Cote FN council members, and Craig McCallum, the fourth Vice President of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).

Cote FN Council member Lambert “Frenchie” Cote delivered a heartfelt speech emphasizing the importance of education and community support.

“Great job, yeah, that was awesome. It was so nice to see that,” Lambert began, reminiscing about his school days and urging the youth to take pride in their educational journey. He highlighted the resilience and potential of the current generation, encouraging them to aspire and achieve greatness.

Chief George Cote expressed profound pride in the students’ work, noting the powerful impact of their voices.

“We’re really proud of you guys, It all put together your voice, how your words are so powerful, and how it impacts your community to pass this on, to our council, and to see the elders sharing their sides of the story as well. Sometimes we get so caught up in life, that we forget how to treat and respect one another.

“I think this production has kind of touched upon our hearts, not only in our community, but when it’s shared out there in the world and to see how you will have really made an impact on a lot of youth that are out there struggling with the same issues as many of you and how we need to support you in any way we can,” he said, commending their ability to articulate their experiences and concerns. Chief Cote emphasized the significance of youth perspectives in shaping community discussions and decisions, urging council members and elders to heed the messages conveyed by the young filmmakers.

Craig McCallum echoed these sentiments in his address, recognizing the emotional depth and importance of the PSAs.

“They captured something that is great about us as First Nations people,  that we understand each other because we have that shared experience. But that’s also one of the sad things about First Nations people, that there’s a psychological trauma people are still dealing with. And our young people are grieving. And that’s a message that, I can’t even explain how powerful it is to hear that from young people. How important it is for us as an adult, as leaders to educate people in their lives to try and support them and help them break the cycle,” McCallum remarked. He stressed the need for leadership and adults to listen to and act upon the voices of the youth, acknowledging the unique insights and experiences they bring to the table.

Principal Jonas Cote of the Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex praised the collaborative effort behind the PSAs, highlighting the school’s commitment to providing innovative educational opportunities.

“I believe we’re the only First Nations school in Saskatchewan that has done something like this,” he stated, celebrating the milestone achievement for the institution and its students.

In interviews following the presentations, Chief George Cote and Craig McCallum shared their reflections on the event’s success. Chief Cote expressed optimism about future projects, noting that such initiatives help children overcome shyness and articulate their needs.

“I’m really proud of the kids for the production they’ve done showing their talent and how they express their feelings, I think there’ll be more projects like this because it opens up the shyness in a child, to help them express what’s in their heart to give us direction for what they need. I’m really proud of the kids, really proud of that school. I think it’s a new era now. I think the young people are starting to speak, so we have to listen.” he said.

McCallum emphasized the transformative potential of listening to and acting on youth voices.

“I think it was really, it was touching. It was heart-moving. We hear our leadership, we hear our parents, we hear our elders, even talking about the issues in our communities. But what I think we miss sometimes is, like what Chief George Cote said, we don’t pay enough attention to what our youth are saying, and what they’re experiencing from their perspective, I mean, they process these experiences in a very different way than we do. And they have different tools to deal with those situations than we do as adults. And so it was really moving to see from their perspective what the issues are, what they care about, and what they think should be done moving forward.

“I’m very proud of these young people for stepping up and doing that and sharing that message because it’s not an easy thing to do. I was really, really honoured and happy to be here. Everything happens for a reason I wasn’t originally intended to be here, but I’m very glad and honoured that I could be here to bear witness. And I know that this message is going to touch a lot of people’s hearts and minds. But what I truly hope is that it gets people to act on what the youth are saying. We can listen to them say what they need all day long. But if we don’t actually do something to empower them, or to make the world better for them, then I think we’re missing the message and we’re missing the boat a little bit and so I hope that leads to something good and a better world for the ones that walk after us.” he said.