In November 2016, Canada Bridges Program Manager Sarah Kinnie sat down with Grace Hunter, recent winner of the Southern Alberta Indigenous Youth Awards, to discuss her leadership journey, her work with Canada Bridges and her plans for the future.
- Can you introduce yourself?
Grace: My name is Grace Hunter, I am 16 years old and I come from Stoney Nakoda Nation, Morley, Alberta
- When did you first meet Canada Bridges?
Grace: It was in 2014 when I was in grade 8. Bridges joined us on a school bike trip and that is when I first heard about Bridges and met Sarah and Siri.
- What Bridges programs have you participated in?
1. Run as One 2014: Highlights of this was to have youth of Morley represented and meeting new people. Canada Bridges helped us to meet new people in Siksika, we wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t for Bridges.
2. When I was a summer student in 2015, Bridges came in to do a 3-day workshop with us students.
3. Film camp 2015 in Morley: The highlights of this camp were exploring the film making industry. It was something that I wanted to do for a long time since I was a kid. This was my first time being exposed and it led to getting offered to be a lead protagonist in a Nakoda AV club film that following spring break. This was a cool role because my character had to decide between following a good path and a bad path. In the end, the character chooses the good path.
4. Sioux Alliance camp (put on by Nakoda Youth Council): I went there without any of my sisters, and that was my first time going to a camp without any good friends or family. Once I had this experience, I decided that I should take the next step and say yes to the next opportunities that came up!
5. Film Camp 2016 in Siksika: I had some friends from Morley who wanted to join but they were too shy to go to Siksika. I had to challenge myself to go even though I didn’t know anyone. It ended up being really great and I made a lot of friends.
6. Run as One conference 2016: Because I went to film camp in Siksika, I knew some more people and my sisters were able to come with me. I knew some Elders there and some other people I knew from my earlier visits.
- Who, from the Bridges family, were you working with?
Grace: Sarah, Alyssa, Kristin, Jenn, Trevor
- Where has Bridges helped and supported you the most?
Grace: You have helped me by introducing me to new people, places and experiences. All this has taught me that I don’t have to just work in and care about my own reserve; that I can care about all Indigenous people so I should be exploring outside my own reserve too.
When I was 14, I only thought about how my reserve needed my help. After this summer and getting out to other places, I realized that we can help other people and that we all need to help each other. This summer, a lady talked about how “if you give back to your community, it will benefit you”
Through my community I have done all this work, I’m trying to help people. I learned that I can help represent Morley well and that when I do this, people’s stereotypes get challenged and hopefully that will also help our community.
If it weren’t for Canada Bridges, I wouldn’t have gotten this far.
- You were recently awarded with a Southern Alberta Indigenous Youth Awards (SAIYA)- what does that mean for you?
Grace: I wasn’t nervous or anything for the award presentation because I had been in other situations like this. I feel very honoured to get this award. I’m surprised, I didn’t know that people nominated me for this. I think only 12 people were selected.
- What are your hopes for your community? Any goals/hopes/plans for the New Year?
Grace: At the moment, I’m looking at places that need more motivation. After this award I am going to be able to be an ambassador of the SAIYA. My hope is to inspire other indigenous youth. I want to show them that there are many ways to share your purpose on this earth. For me, “Camping” (aka going to camps) is a way to express myself and do good things with my life: I get to push myself spiritually, physically, emotionally. Going to camps always changes you in some way. For example, going on the SALTS trip a couple years ago helped me to expand my understanding of multiculturalism. Film camp is another good example because I learned that film is a different avenue for the Aboriginal people to be known and be heard.
The first step was to explore within my community and the next step is to keep exploring…
8.You seem to be getting very good at expressing yourself and public speaking after all these experiences, would you agree?
Grace: Yes, I think so! Last week, metro news wanted to interview me and they told me I was very succinct and spoke really well.
I’m starting to get more comfortable with public speaking.
When I was younger, around 10, I would watch other Indigenous women speaking and showing their talents and I would wish that I could be that way and that I could be a leader. I guess that is starting to become a reality.
9.What are the biggest challenges you are taking on currently?
Grace: My high school in Canmore has asked me to be an Aboriginal Representative on the Student Council. Eventually, I hope that another Indigenous youth will take my spot so they can also get this experience.
My goal is to increase the graduation and attendance rate at my school.
10. Do you have any ideas of how to do this?
Grace: Actually, I had this idea that we could gather up all the First Nations students at my school and brainstorm/discuss how we could make that school better for them so that it would be a better place to learn.
My teacher brought this idea to the administration and they recently agreed that this should take place. We will be hosting that on December 7th