SASKATOON — Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Youth Representatives welcomed the sight of hundreds of Indigenous youth dancing and expressing the same culture that was once denied to their ancestors.
Hailey Rose and Brock McLeod-Waditaka, the female and male FSIN Youth reps, said the Spirit of Our Nations youth powwow held Friday at the SaskTel Centre was entirely run by young people from the 74 different First Nations in Saskatchewan with the guidance of their elders and members of the FSIN executive like Third Vice Chief Aly Bear.
“For the most part, the planning, we’ve just been doing it the last couple of months. Our youth came in to facilitate more. Our capacity we can do. How can we support and mentor the youth that would be running the show?” said Rose.
“That’s our responsibility [as youth reps]. We represent the 74 First Nations youth in Saskatchewan, so we need to be there to support them and show them leadership. If they need something, we’re here for them. It’s all about empowering and being supportive of our youth.”
Rose is from Mosquito, Grizzly Bear’s Head, Lean Man First Nations. She and McLeod-Waditaka are both 19 and were elected FSIN youth representatives during the Rezilient 8th Generation Conference last April.
McLeod-Waditaka, who together with Rose represents almost a quarter of Indigenous youth from 15 to 24, said it is nice that youth are involved in learning the culture and traditions of their people for them to be preserved and passed on to the next generation.
“Our culture was taken away from us. But we’re slowly bringing it back. I have teachers too. All these kids might have teachers or people they look up to in their communities,” McLeod-Waditaka added.
“It is nice to see [our culture] coming back piece-by-piece. Even if it is just a powwow or round dance and other things. We are trying to build that relationship back with what the Creator gifted us.”
McLeon-Waditaka, from the Wahpeton Dakota Nation, added that seeing youngsters wearing their regalia and dancing while other youths are involved in running the show is truly an inspiring moment.
“It makes my heart happy to see them fully involved in our culture. Whatever the case, like learning our culture at our home. I would like to see us returning to our roots, and learning who we are as Indigenous Peoples.”
Rose said people tend to forget that young people were also gravely affected by the coronavirus pandemic for almost two years but seeing youth participation in the first powwow event is truly inspiring.
“People have said that our young people are lost. But [during] this pandemic, we forgot how to be sociable [and] how to interact with each other. Those relationships with other people around us, within or out of our circle, we were detached from them. It affected our youth with their mental health, depression [and] anxiety,” said Rose
“These are things we were dealing with when we were out of school. And to be in this environment [powwow], and see our youth coming together, it makes me happy seeing their smiles. Seeing [our] youth singing and dancing is inspiring. I know that we’re creating change, and that’s what matters to me, seeing our youth succeed.”