I spent last weekend at a Youth Engagement Forum in my community. The event was organized by the local Six Nations youth in collaboration with the Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council. Alas, I’m not a youth anymore, so my role was really to assist with a bit of the planning and try to help out in other ways. I like this role, it gives me a lot of time to listen, learn and be inspired by the leadership that young people and elders demonstrate. Many powerful and positive messages were shared throughout the forum from youth, elders and presenters. Here are some of the highlights that I personally took from the event:
- Everyone has a gift
- Find your passion and purpose
- Share your positive energy
- You only fail if you stop trying
- Help your community and your people
- Be good to the Creation
- Follow your original instructions
1) Indigenous Peoples are not Canadians
2) Treaties were made not signed
3) Treaties are internationally recognized agreements
Over the last week, I had read a few articles that were very negative. One of them was about the negativity and hatred that was directed at a thirteen-year old girl who wore a sweatshirt to school that said, “Got Land? Thank an Indian.” The second was a public statement by a Conservative MP who was defending the oil sands for creating jobs and slamming Neil Young for statements and positions he’s been taking about the oil sands through the #HonourtheTreaties tour. I was disappointed by the attitudes of these women who were spreading this negativity around in defense of same-ness and economics.
I was disappointed because over the past few years I’ve realized that one of my dreams is for there to be clean water, a healthy climate and food systems for Indigenous and non-Indigenous families of the future. and I recognize that means I need to be aware of the very real challenges we are creating for those families and be willing to understand what I might have to give up to help ensure that future. I read those articles, saw those negative attitudes and wondered what I could do about it without generating more negativity. I think I got my answer this weekend. The messages that were shared in the forum are all potential ways to be proactive without resorting to negativity.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t ‘haters’ out there – certainly, they seem to be everywhere. I read a lot of writer’s blogs and in the last few weeks a number of them talked about having the same experiences with people, trolls or others who criticize and belittle the work that they are doing. Once again, I found a similar message. I don’t have to make the choice to be negative or internalize negativity because there’s another option that fits me better, an option that lets me keep making the art I have to make and share the happiness that creativity brings me with others. Definitely, this is the choice for me.