Posts tagged ‘youth’

September 4, 2013

Observed on the street: A little healthy self-love

Observed on the street:

A pre-teen girl walking down the street wearing a t-shirt with the following affirmation written across the front in big, bold characters:

i ❤ being me.


Would that we all wore t-shirts like this.

November 15, 2012

The evanescence of childhood

I love this passage from the short story “Quality Time” by Barbara Kingsolver in her collection Homeland.  The passage comes after Miriam, a single mother, has just answered a string of questions about death from her five-year-old daughter Rennie as they drive home from day care.  Rennie has ruminatively decided that she would rather live with her aunt than her father if something were to happen to Miriam, and Miriam has looped around the block a few times in order to let the conversation run its course.  Now the subject turns to dinner.  Rennie wants pot pies — even after her mother suggests a stop at Ice Cream Heaven — and declares that, yes, she’ll be able to wait the half hour for dinner to cook in the oven once they get home.

In the overtones of her voice and the way she pushes her blond hair over her shoulder there is a startling maturity, and Miriam is frozen for a moment with a vision of a much older Rennie.  All the different Rennies — the teenager, the adult — are already contained in her hands and her voice, her confidence.  From moments like these, parents can find the courage to believe in the resilience of their children’s lives.  They will barrel forward like engines, armoured by their own momentum, more indestructible than love.

To me, this passage captures the fleetingness of both childhood and parenthood.  It also catches that moment in a parent’s life when you realize that, no matter what you do, your child is a person unto him- or herself.  One day, you will have to simply step back, let go, and stand on the riverbank as the current of who your child is flows by you, cutting its own special course through the unseen landscapes ahead.


November 2, 2012

Children. . . . The future of our past

My children are the future of my past.

These words come from Alyce Johnson, a professor of First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia and a member of the Kluane First Nation in Yukon.  She shared them yesterday as she led a group of six women on a “trail talk” along the trails of Forests for the World, a park and demonstration forest in Prince George, B.C.

Alyce spoke to our small group, of which I was a member, about how trails — whether “natural” or “man-made” — carry knowledge of people, landscapes and traditions, and help define languages, narratives and, ultimately, world views.

To me, Alyce’s words drive home the importance of immersing our children in the stories, protocols and traditions of our families, our people, our communities, our earth.  The past (and our cultural histories) cannot be integrated into the future unless carried there by our young ones.  We must therefore equip our children well for the task.

I also love this beautiful quote from a handout Alyce provided during the walk:

I am a map of a storied world expressed from a language that the earth remembers and a people speak.

The Earth remembers, a people speak, and we are one.

(The “Trail Talk” I attended was one of a series organized by the University of Northern British Columbia’s Northern Research Group.)

July 18, 2012

Words from Shawn Atleo

Collected quotations from Shawn Atleo, who was today re-elected for a second term as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada:

On education:

First Nations youth are the youngest and fastest-growing segment of our population. Their share of the labour force will triple over the next 20 years.  First Nations youth who complete high school are twice as likely to be employed, and those who get university degrees triple their earning potential.  Increasing their graduation rates to match those of other Canadians [40 per cent of First Nations youth graduate from high school, compared to 80 per cent of non-First-Nations youth] would inject an additional $71 billion into Canada’s economy over the next 10 years.  This would help eliminate the employment gap, adding another $160 billion to the economy over a 10-year period.

Investing in First Nations is a long-term, sustainable stimulus plan for Canada’s economy.  And yet our learners languish.  First Nations children receive $2,000 less per year than non-aboriginal students.  Schools lack libraries, computers, even heat and drinking water.  Some of our communities lack permanent schools. Simple fairness dictates that we address this intolerable inequity.

When we open a door to a school, we close a door to a jail cell.

On resource development: 

First Nations can and must have a say in designing more sustainable resource development within our country and in our territories. . . . Together, we must plan what a sustainable future looks like.

On awareness and working together:  

Learning is all about . . . listening for understanding [and for] what each each others’ perspectives are.  Somehow we [in Canada] strayed, and it’s time to return to that sentiment.

The consciousness of [First Nations’] history is starting to become well known.  There’s a real sense of resilience.  We have come through a most unbelievably challenging time where most of Canada has not understood.  Now we are welcoming [Canadians] into this conversation.

Let us turn the page to a new chapter, together.

June 20, 2012

How can you help “Corriger le tableau” / “Clean the slate” ?

This short film is incredibly powerful — it speaks volumes about stereotypes, prejudices and self-esteem among First Nations youth in Canada, and it raises important questions about what we (as non-Native Canadians) can do to help “clean the slate” and provide these youth with the level playing field they need for their self-confidence to grow and their dreams to truly take flight.

(Note:  The film was created by First Nations youth from the community of Manawan, Quebec, and Wapikoni Mobile, a non-profit organization dedicated to brining audiovisual skills and a voice to First Nations youth in isolated communities.  I was fortunate enough to see the film as part the Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival, which runs this week in Ottawa, Canada.)



More information:

[Film summary for non-French speakers:  First Nations youth write on the chalkboard stereotypes and derogatory comments they encounter in their lives — things like “Go back to the reserve,” “Savage,” “Cigarette smuggler,” “Poor,” “Druggie,” “I wear feathers,” “Don’t pay taxes,” “Lazy,” etc.  Then, they erase these words and write descriptions of who they really are:  “I am fine,” “I will be an airplane pilot,” “Love sports,” “Generous,” “Love music,” “Good at school,” “Passionate about hockey,” “Cook well,” “Make everyone laugh,” “Proud to be who I am.”  The title “Corriger le tableau” means “Clean the slate.”]