“Leading with culture”: Indigenous youth share lessons learned – British Columbia

What does it mean to lead with culture? That’s something both Ferrada Lightning, a 26-year-old from Maskwacis, Alta. and Megan Metz, a 24-year-old from Kitimat, British Columbia, do it every day.

“When we return to culture, we reconnect with the wisdom of our ancestors, their strength and the connection to community, because our ceremonies are beautiful practices and that’s who we are,” Lightning said.

“Culture is who I am, it’s my connection to my community, my elders – it has changed my life. »

For years, Indigenous people were taught to hide who they were, to be ashamed of their culture and practices in private, but in recent decades that has changed – and both Lightning and Metz are part of that change in their communities. .

Both men spoke this week at the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide gathering, which brought nearly 4,000 Indigenous people from around the world to Vancouver.

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“It’s very powerful to see all these connections being built and these relationships forming between people who wouldn’t necessarily have had a lot of contact with each other but who share very similar stories, beliefs and core values very similar,” Metz said. .

“Being able to come together, share our hearts, our stories, our visions of the future and what it could be, it’s very enriching. »

While completing his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Mount Royal University, Lightning also works in Maskwacis as a climate justice coordinator and program manager, bringing his culture into what he does.

“My moshum (grandfather) teaches me everything I know,” Lightning said. “A kokum (grandmother) once told me that the real fight is not with the fists, but with the voice and that changed my whole life.”

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Lightning said he grew up as an angry, crisis-ridden individual, not realizing that his negativity was hurting the people around him. Thanks to the teachings of his moshum, he was able to reverse the trend.

“I have dedicated my life to using my voice for good because The last thing I said to my mother before she was murdered was, ‘I hate you and I wish you would die’…and then she did,” Lightning said.

“I wanted to take this away for so long, but I learned my lesson and my culture helped me turn pain into power, turn mistakes into learning.”

Lightning said some of the best advice he could give was to learn – learn the culture, learn a language and learn to be gentle with yourself.

“I listen to my moshum and my kokums because I don’t know anything,” he said. “There will not be a time in my life where I will know something because I am on this earth to learn, and every day is an opportunity to do that.”

Young people came together to share their thoughts and priorities through a live graphic recording from Sam Bradd.

Haley Lewis / PKBNEWS

Metz wears several hats. In her community, she works to revitalize languages, teaching beginner courses to adults. She also does archival work and is a strong advocate for mental health.

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“I’m really pa*sionate about trying to learn as much as I can and teaching it to young people and other people in the community who really want to learn,” she said.

As a speaker of Haisla, she is empowered by those who taught her to feel comfortable teaching.

“I learned that it is equally important for you, as a language learner, to teach as much as you can, as early as possible,” Metz said.

“There’s a lot of power in that, rather than waiting until you’re fluent – ​​time is sort of the essence when it comes to revitalizing a language.”

Being a language teacher helps him keep his mind sharp and retain his knowledge. “I love infusing culture into storytelling and it’s something I’m really pa*sionate about,” Metz said.

“So when it’s time for the potlach or the ceremony, it’s very important to just share words and phrases that have to do with that.”

Healing Our Mind Healing, recovery and health are centered around the world.

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Richard Jock, CEO of the First Nations Health Authority, said the conference “was born out of interest in pursuing approaches that work for communities”..»

“Our approach is focused on wellness, and as part of wellness, part of our instruction from the First Nations people of British Columbia is to lead with culture,” he said. he declares.

Over the course of the week, Indigenous people from across Canada, the United States, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Australia shared their resources, expertise and challenges.

“This period gives us inspiration to continue the work, because some aspects of it are quite difficult – like residential schools, the effects of colonialism, the lingering effects of drugs and alcohol – so I would say it’s definitely a inspirational,” Jock said. .

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“But also some of these practical models through which we can hope to improve the lives of our population.”

“Things can be pretty heavy in the world sometimes,” adds Metz. “It’s nice to be in a space like this where you can just be filled with hope of what’s possible when we come together.”

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