Creating youth initiatives and developing leadership skills early empowers youths and their peers to have a strong voice within the community.
These principles are part of a collaborative initiative amongst Big Grassy, Naongashiing, and Onigaming First Nation communities.
As part of the collaboration, youth council members will take their ideas on engaging and nurturing youth concepts and work with the chiefs and councils of their First Nation communities.
The youth group was able to organize its first pilot project which helped start the Youth Mobilization Launch Festival.
The festival is a shared common belief in engaging all their youth to nurture future leaders.
Inspiration for the festival was from a new idea to have youth leaders be a part of the process in organizing events in first nation communities.
The festival will be taking place today from 10 a.m. until midnight at Assabaska Ojibway Heritage Park.
Events for the festival include contemporary and pow-wow dancers, comedian Martin Tuesday, fireworks compliments of AKRC, and performances by The Mangoo Group. It also allows youth leaders and their peers to socialize and plan other youth initiatives for future consideration for first nations council to discuss.
The Youth Mobilization Launch Festival creates a unique dynamic as an event run by youth leaders for youths in First Nation communities.
As for timing, the event could not have been more in tune with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).
Romeo Duguay, special project officer with Big Grassy First Nation, said he had first read about a similar initiative for youths in British Columbia.
He explained when he spoke with a contact from ISC, the organization was already considering a youth initiative strategy for Ontario.
Soon enough working with the organizer from other First Nation communities and ISC ideas began to mesh and a concept was forged together.
Duguay emphasized the purpose was about developing a youth’s confidence.
He stated youths should be able to advocate the point of views of their peers and feel their voice matters on community issues.
The concept of the initiative was seen as a best practice method to overcome challenges, stated Duguay.
“The culmination of these efforts over a two-year period will be utilized as a best practice and shared amongst other First Nations,” said Duguay.
He added each community shares the same objective of the inclusion for youths in the decision-making process and similar processes and training to become a future leader.
It is the hope of these first nation community’s youth council members will develop professional skills in event planning, socio-economic strategies, and budgeting.
Group leaders believe getting involved with youth councils can also strengthen self-esteem, learn how to work with others, reinforce responsibility and communication skills, as well as increase leadership qualities.
“Youth are identifying what constitutes a good leader in their minds,” noted Duguay.
He explained the initiative brings innovations and meaningful input on politics and First Nations issues.
Duguay envisions the Youth Mobilization Launch Festival as a platform or outlet for youths to express the community’s needs and be a leading force in local social and economic development.
He added youths have a good grasp on the issues but need a stepping stone for their movement to excel and gain notoriety.
“The youths have their thumbs on the pulse of new technology, innovations–all they need is an avenue to pursue that interest,” said Duguay.
This initiative allows youths to control what youth-based projects they want to be involved and help plan. The decisions made with the chief and council can have a positive change for other youths in their community.
The Youth Mobilization Launch Festival is the first opportunity for many of these youth to showcase the leadership skills and recognize the value they can bring to their communities.
The leader of the youth council hopes one day their work will come full circle and the learning experience today will help contribute to bettering the community in all areas in the future.