The United Way Natoo’si Strategy annually organizes a Connect Event with a focus on “breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma to promote healing, well-being and reconciliation.” With this year’s event focused on truth and knowing the truth before we move into reconciliation, the planning committee wanted to include youth’s truths. Having attended our youth storytelling event, AYE in past years, a few members of the Connect Event planning committee invited Canada Bridges to help include youth in the event.
We had the opportunity to facilitate a piece for 10 of the youth in attendance, who participated through their schools or the Braiding the Sweetgrass Program. We spent some time getting to know one another in an icebreaker and then more in depth as we went through our self-reflective wisdom story exercise, which demonstrated the incredible resiliency, strength, and insight of everyone in the room. Then we had a short half hour to support the youth to work through synthesizing what from their personal stories they might want to share with the audience members, as the committee had allotted some time for youth to share messages.
Despite the short time to prepare, nearly half of the youth got up on stage. They talked about who they want to be in the future, including through connecting with their culture, how they want adults to acknowledge that the youth have knowledge and need to be listened to, and how they need the adults in their life to think about how the adults’ lack of wellness impacts them. We also were able to share a powerful video that an AYE presenter had created with the audience as well, which rounded out the youth’s strong messages to close the first day of the conference.
We appreciated the support we had from Gitz Derange, a youth worker from the Braiding the Sweetgrass program and a mentor in our Urban Transitions Mentorship Program, who stayed for a portion of our facilitation during the first day of the conference and led a closing circle and prayer for the youth on the second day. Elder Daphne Good Eagle also sat with the youth and shared how reflecting on her story helps her through difficult times in her life as we worked on our wisdom stories and provided emotional support as needed. Their support as well as the guidance and efforts of the Connect Event Committee helped make the event into a great success!