Amazing role models inspire youth at Youth Teepee Summit 2023

Emcee Ashley Callingbull with Naela Thunder Chief, inspiring youth at the YTS 2023 Teepee Summit last month at Poundmakers Lodge in St. Albert. Photo by Kinnukana.

By Kinnukana, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) -The Youth Teepee Summit 2023 took place at the Poundmaker’s Lodge powwow grounds in St. Albert, on Treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the Metis, from August 24-26, 2023. The Summit is an annual event organized by the First Nations Health Consortium and is aimed to inspire youth from Alberta in Treaty 6, 7 and 8 territories to become strong community leaders. The Summit featured an amazing lineup of Indigenous role model speakers and learning activities to the two hundred youth in attendance.

The summit was emceed by Ashley Callingbull, a Cree from Enoch Cree Nation, and well renowned model, actress and host. Ashley became the first Canadian and Indigenous woman to win the Mrs. Universe title in 2015. As emcee, she shared her experiences and offered great advice to the youth.

Kiya Bruno at the Youth Teepee Summit 2023. Photo by Kinnukana.

“One thing that I have learned, especially chasing all the things that I have chased, I have learned that it is true that you are who you hang with. That’s why it’s so important to spend time with people that want to uplift you, that want to bring out the best in you, people that want to see you rise. Those are true friends. People that want to hold you back, and live in the moment, and do things that aren’t going to better you as a person, are people that will just drag you down,” said Ashley.

Ashley spent time at the summit interviewing other role models and began by speaking with Kiya Bruno. Kiya is a young Cree woman from Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis Alberta. She is an actress, artist, Indigenous Rights advocate, athlete, entrepreneur and the co-owner of Stay Rooted Apparel. Kiya is also a traditional vocalist and everyone at the summit had the pleasure of hearing her perform the Canadian National Anthem in Cree. Kiya told the youth, “If I didn’t push myself forward, it would have stopped me a lot from doing the things that I wanted to do. So, my advice is to keep pushing yourself because if you stop, you never know where it could actually take you. Indigenous people are all are very talented and have different kinds of skills that are rooted into our culture. I just think that if we stop what we’re doing, we’ll never find out what we have hidden in our talents.”

The youth also heard from Naela Thunder Chief, from the Blood Tribe, Kainai Nation. Naela is Miss Blackfoot Canada and a young advocate for the Blackfoot people. She comes from a strong bloodline of Blackfoot Chiefs and Matriarchs and has support from Elders, and both her maternal and paternal families. Naela encouraged the youth to stay connected to their culture. She said, “It is really important as young people that we find our cultural identity and know who we are as people.” Naela said that Indigenous teachings, stories, values and ways of life matter and that one way of preserving the Indigenous culture is by listening to Elders.

Amanda McLeod at the Youth Teepee Summit in St. Albert last month. Photo by Kinnukana.

Amanda McLeod, a Fort Albany First Nation member from Mushkegowuk Territory of Treaty 9, and Professional Ballet Dancer also provided a presentation to the youth and spoke about her experiences leading up to her dancing career. Amanda auditioned for and was accepted into Canada’s National Ballet School’s Professional Ballet Program in Toronto, Ontario. She left home at the age of ten to study ballet and stayed there until she completed grade twelve, where she graduated with academic honours. In 2022, Amanda received a short term contract with the National Ballet of Canada company to perform in James Kudelka’s The Nutcracker. Amanda is a strong advocate for including individuals of all abilities to participate in dance and she uses her dance platform to build greater awareness about Indigenous matters. Amanda eloquently performed a short routine on the small stage for everyone to enjoy.

Youth had an opportunity to learn about opioid addictions & treatment and they participated in Naloxone training. They also had a presentation by Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, Family Physician and Opioid Crisis Specialist. Dr. Tailfeathers said, “[One] of the positive childhood experiences, which we should be engaging in, is being able to talk about feelings with family. Our children should be able to openly say ‘Mom I’m scared. Mom, you’re scaring me when you’re talking to me like that. Mom, I don’t feel safe around this person.’ Our children should feel safe talking to us about how they feel, and we shouldn’t shut them down. They need to feel supported by family in difficult times.”

Over the three days of the Summit, youth were inspired by the wonderful Indigenous role models. They had time to listen, ask questions, participate in various activities, including traditional hand games and a round dance. On the closing day, youth were able to participate and laugh during a fun improv session with actor Telly James Hunt and Aaron Marion-Dron. The Summit closed with an interactive activity led by Conrad Plews, Metis Artist and Owner of Black Market Tattoo, where participants worked together to complete a mosaic painting that depicts the highlights of their wonderful time together.


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