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Youth rally at Tee Pee Summit

Conference brings 70 to Poundmaker grounds
2008 TeepeeConf 1488 km
OLYMPIC EFFORT — Waneek Horn-Miller speaks to youths about her water-polo experience at the 2010 Summer Olympics during the 2022 Tee Pee Summit at Poundmaker's Lodge Aug. 17. Horn-Miller was one of several inspirational speakers at the event. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

Scores of youths from across Alberta were at Poundmaker’s this week to help plan the future of Indigenous people in Canada.

About 70 people were at the Poundmaker’s Lodge powwow grounds Aug. 16 to 18 for the inaugural Youth Tee Pee Summit. Organized by the First Nations Health Consortium (a collaboration of four Alberta First Nations health groups), the free conference took place under a big white tent surrounded by teepees, and asked Indigenous youths what steps Canadians should take to get from reconciliation to reconcili-action.

Indigenous peoples have been speaking out for years, but nowadays they are starting to actually be heard, said conference co-organizer Keri Cardinal. Pope Francis’s recent apology for Canada’s residential schools has also brought attention to Indigenous issues.

“This is our year, and we’re having our say,” Cardinal said.

The conference saw youths hear inspirational remarks from speakers such as Amazing Race winner James Makokis and Olympic speed skater Catriona Le May Doan. Delegates painted a mosaic art piece with the help of First Nations artist Lance Cardinal and took in comedy shows and drum dances. They also wrote answers on Post-It notes to various policy questions which will be compiled into a report.

Looking ahead

Retired Olympic water polo athlete and former National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls member Waneek Horn-Miller spoke on how her mother inspired her to pursue her Olympic dream and overcome the trauma of the 1990 Oka Crisis (during which Horn-Miller, at age 14, was stabbed in the chest by a Canadian soldier).

The Oka Crisis was the first time many Canadians had heard anything about treaty rights, Horn-Miller said in an interview. Nowadays, events such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Pope’s apology have helped Canadians recognize historic truths Indigenous peoples have long known. Against this backdrop, this summit asked youths to look ahead.

“What is it we want? What do we want our communities to look like? What do we want the future to look like?” she asked.

Asked what Canadians should do to effect reconcili-action, conference delegate Cordell Cardinal, a 26-year-old member of Bigstone Cree Nation from Edmonton, said he wants leaders to do more to preserve Indigenous language and culture.

“We are losing more [Indigenous language] speakers every year,” he said, and it is vital to get youths interested in those languages to keep them alive.

“We have the ability to learn French in our school system. Why not also learn Cree?”

Delegate Kennedy Wolf, 24, of Sylvan Lake said Horn-Miller’s speech had inspired her to persevere with her business and fitness goals. She called on Indigenous leaders to take action on clean water on reserves, noting how her on-reserve relatives have lived under boil-water advisories for decades.

Reconciliation is a collaborative effort, and there are plenty of issues for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to work together on, Horn-Miller said.

“I always ask Canadians, ‘What does it mean to be Canadian?’” she said.

“Does it mean certain segments of the population don’t have clean drinking water, or are incarcerated at very high rates, or have lesser standards of health care? … If those things don’t in your mind jive with what you think being Canadian means, you need to work at making them better. You need to work with us.”

A report and highlight-reel video of the summit is set to be released later this year. Visit for details.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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