As a young adult and a survivor of extreme childhood bullying, I have a special interest in youth leadership. It is very empowering when youth are using their own minds and voices to bring forward the good, and the youth on the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake are doing just that.
Kahnawake in itself has taken admirable action and unity of thought against the proposed First Nations Education Act, and the youth have been a very vocal component to that. I spoke with the Interim President Kanhehsiio Deer about the Kahnawake Youth Forum, and a very cool video contest they are holding, open to indigenous youth everywhere.
Nan: We saw how the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) passed a band council resolution in December not to enforce the proposed First Nations Education Act. Is that how the youth got involved?
Kanhehsiio Deer: Throughout November & December there was an Education Working Group created that has reps from the MCK, the Education Center, the longhouse, etc. They were really good at getting the information out to the community. A lot of youth also approached us about their concerns with the FNEA. In addition to writing a position paper against the act, we’re in the process of making a creative video & had the idea to hold a video contest to inspire other youth to make their own videos expressing their thoughts on the Act & its possible implications.
TRT: The Chiefs of Ontario just held a Youth Forum on Six Nations and some of the information gathered from that will help form a Youth Council in our community. Sadly, we have lost too many youth to drug and alcohol related accidents and more recently to suicide. Is that an issue in Kahnawake as well?
Kanhehsiio Deer: Alcohol & drug abuse are certainly issues in Kahnawake. As is just general apathy among not just youth, but the general public.
TRT: What do you mean when you say apathy?
Kanhehsiio Deer: Just not caring about whatever “the issue” is whether it be politics, social issues etc. Or, not being at a level yet where they are willing to do something about it (Ie, coming to a KYF event to raise awareness about the violence against indigenous women, or AIDS/HIV, the FNEA, etc.
TRT: Do you feel that use of social media/video can help squash that apathy?
Kanhehsiio Deer: Yes! Last year, we had a call for art submissions around the theme of what Idle No More means to them, it was very successful. Our cultural appropriation sticker campaign, which incorporated social media was very successful. Now, we’re trying video as a medium.
Our role as the executive committee is to provide youth with opportunities, but to also provide a venue for them to express themselves. As youth, that doesn’t necessarily mean expressing your opinion via speech at a meeting. It can be through social media, it can be through art, or video.
Even our workshops are usually done in a fun away. We have guest speakers, but we don’t want youth to just feel like they’re being talked at in a lecture-setting at school. We always incorporate interactive elements. Our secretary, Megan Whyte goes to Concordia for Art Education, so she’s also really good at incorporating art activities too.
TRT: So, let’s talk about this video contest. What are the details and how can someone enter?
Kanhehsiio Deer: We’re holding the video contest to any indigenous youth aged 15-30. The only other criteria is that the video revolves around the issue of the FNEA & its implications. So for example, there’s no focus on language & culture. A video can be about the importance of learning your language & culture. Videos can be as straight forward or as abstract & creative as youth want; interviews, just pictures, different animation techniques, it’s all welcome!
All videos should be uploaded to a website like You Tube or Vimeo & submit that link to us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through our website, along with a description of the video, your name, age, community & email.