Allies, Indigenous Youth Need You Now

If you call yourself an ally to Indigenous people I need your attention right now because we have young lives that need to know they matter. In light of both recent verdicts in the court cases involving Tina Fontaine & Colten Bouschie (& so many more that have happened recently) Indigenous young people in Canada are afraid. There was a time when young people would share how they feel unsafe walking down the street, taking the bus, calling the cops if they need help or seeking any type of safety or accountability through typical “justice” system means. I encouraged those youth to build their system literacy, ask for help and speak their truth. I’ve seen many of our young people express their pain on social media, asking for help and speaking truthfully and it’s an important part of grieving. However, I am saddened and angered by the amount of non indigenous devil’s advocates commenting, harrassing & trolling these young people. People saying “justice was served” and other unhelpful comments are making our young people feel even more unsafe, making them less likely to reach out and ask for help. We don’t need more young people bottling things up, it leads to thoughts of suicide. So hear this, I am asking for help on behalf of our young people who need hope right now.

They need to know that there are non Indigenous relatives who still love them. Who respect their pain. Who will listen to their cries and respond to their requests for love and support with encouraging words. If you’re an ally we need more than thoughts and prayers. We need your help to protect the hearts and bodies of these young people.

It is not fair to ask these young people in their grief and very justifiable fears to educate the rest of Canada about how to fix these systems they had no part in creating, these systems that too frequently fail Indigenous kids and families. Regardless of what’s fair, I want you to please take action in one or all of the following ways:

  1. Send a message to Indigenous young people in your life reminding them why you love them and that you are here to support.
  2. Check out #SettlerCollector on twitter and follow their lead. Defend our young people and Indigenous helpers as we process our emotions and organize our thoughts. We need you to fight these digital battles on our behalf because I know for me at least, I don’t have the energy to do it right now.
  3. Educate yourself and your circle of non Indigenous relatives and allies about the details of the cases and the history of colonial injustices against Indigenous kids and tell them to quit asking young people to relive these traumatic details
  4. Show up. When we ask you to come to a rally, a sacred fire, a protest camp, or whatever the families of these victims ask for, show up. It is not your time to speak when you get there, it’s time to be a support, it’s time to listen. It will hurt you to hear, but it hurts much more to live those realities. Bring signs, bring more people, bring knowledge. There’s strength in numbers.
  5. Advocate for systems change, especially in the justice system (see my last post on justice for more details). But we could also use help advocating for systems change in child welfare, education, Employment Insurance/welfare and health.
  6. When Indigenous youth are expressing their pain about colonial systems, sometimes rough language is used. Don’t take it personally. It’s not about your feelings, it’s about justice for our families.
  7. Be kind. In this darkness right now, we need to see kindness and love on display as much as possible

I share these ways of helping so that you don’t ask young people in their fear/pain to give jurisdictionally accurate instructions to systems in our country. I promise you, those reports have been written, those recommendations have been made. If you need more ideas on how to support Indigenous young people — I’m afraid that’s all I got right now. I’m scared and exhausted too. Once I can process my own feelings and try to rest, I will continue this work, continue organizing in community and continue the work of my ancestors to take care of the people and the land. I’ve said this many times, but if you keep fighting, so will I.

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5 thoughts on “Allies, Indigenous Youth Need You Now

  1. I’m impressed you said don’t expect solutions to systems while our youth are in grief and fear. I’ve been spreading this message as well. Solutions come when people are supported and love. Great list and thanks for you’re input. Also enjoyed the it hurts to hear, however hurts more to live.

  2. Thanks for this, Michael. I think many allies and people learning more about these systemic injustices in Canada are looking for ways to help. Speaking up and signal boosting are some ways; your suggestions are more concrete. I wonder whether there might be some way to support initiatives for Indigenous youth developing their own voices, through writing, theatre, etc.? that allies could support, so Indigenous youth see they are valued for who they are and what they have to say.

    1. There is a really neat project called N’we Jinan that takes recording equipment to First Nations communities across Canada and coaches students to collaboratively write and perform a hip-hop style song, sometimes creating a music video alongside it. I highly recommend checking their work out on youtube or their own website.

  3. Michael, my relative, who looks so much like my own father when he was your age – you come from a long line of ancestors who stood up for the right to love freedom and resist persecution. Much was taken from us, but even in their brokenness, our relatives inspired others, healed what they could, and kept going, so that life could be loved, as only broken people know how to love it. There is much joy in this love, and even in these dark times, when we are tired and we feel the loss of our missing generations whose guidance could nourish us, I see this love in you, this joy that will return to you when you have rested and renewed your strength. I write you now to offer something of what our ancestors might have given – they are with you Michael, they walk beside us, they are the breath and the drumbeat that give our hearts courage, and with them, we walk strong, guided, loved, breathing together the same air they did – breathing life into hope even when we’re tired because – it matters. YOU matter. Your work has made a huge difference to so many people. It matters, because THEY matter, you would say. Thank you for all that you do. Know that you are held in spirit by the Champagnes who were there before you, as well as those who are with you now.

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