After feeling culturally isolated and misunderstood in their local high schools across Ottawa, several Métis, First Nations and Inuit youth banded together to improve the educational experiences of Indigenous youth in Ottawa. Along with the Métis Nation of Ontario’s (MNO’s) Ottawa Métis Family Wellbeing Coordinator and other Indigenous service providers, these youth created a biweekly meeting space and platform to share their collective experiences that they decided to call the Original VoicesYouth Circle. The name Original Voices was created as the youth felt that they wanted to represent how their ancestors, the original people and voices of Turtle Island, would have wanted to see this country flourish and carry on traditions passed down from the generations before them.
These youth activists and champions of culture have created their own agenda of cultural activities and events they would like to see implemented in education system to create a culturally-safe and welcoming experience for all Indigenous children and youth in Ottawa. The group also has a direct line of communication to the Ottawa school board’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) education team so they are able to voice their concerns and individual experiences to make schools a more pleasant cultural experience for all.
On June 1, 2017 The Original Voices, helped organize and host the first ever Indigenous Youth Symposium in collaboration with the local school board’s FNMI education team.This event allowed Indigenous students from across the greater Ottawa area to voice their concerns, suggestions and improvements for Indigenous cultural support and curriculum for students. The students gathered in the morning sessions to listen to elders Thomas Louttit (First Nations), Lois McCallum (Métis) and Meeka Kakudluk (Inuit) discuss their cultural views on Indigenous education in schools as well as hear from Métis keynote speaker Mélanie-Rose Frappier.
Mélanie-Rose is well-known within the Métis Nation of Ontario because of her involvement in the annual MNO Infinite Reach March Break Camp and for the recognition she has received for her cultural and community leadership
Mélanie-Rose is a champion for change and a Métis youth activist who provides inspiring messages and workshops to youth across Ontario. Mélanie-Rose is a founderof the non-profit organization “It’s Cool to be Healthy”. Mélanie-Rose is also involved with “Carriers of Youth Wisdom: Enhancing Indigenous Education Through Co-Creation” which helped motivate youth to provide feedback through breakout sessions in the afternoon with the Métis Family Wellbeing Coordinator.
After such a successful symposium, which highlighted huge gaps in the education system impacting Indigenous students, the Original Voices hope to begin to advocate for change and address these gaps in the education system over the course of the next year.
Posted: September 5, 2017