This June we have been invited to join the family of a Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe young man as he graduates high school. We have known our young friend, Dakota* since he was 12 years old and followed along as he journeyed through elementary and high school.
Living in an urban setting, there weren’t always opportunities for Dakota to connect and learn about his culture yet when those opportunities arose, he often jumped at the chance. Though school was sometimes a struggle for him, he has been committed; he’s never been a ‘skipper’ and always knew that school and learning mattered. Dakota is naturally resilient and bright and this has helped him overcome some pretty serious challenges, often created by the very systems that are supposed to help young people, yet like for so many Indigenous youth, actually prevent success. (And then blame the young person or their family.)
Our friend Dakota has been active in the community helping develop a youth strategy for his city, volunteering on various projects we have been involved with, was a leader in a national cultural and reconciliation exchange and he’s participated in national conferences, including spending a week at an Indigenous youth gathering at McGill University. And we should say, he’s worked for Three Things Consulting a number of times, so yes, we are bias about how awesome Dakota is.
His siblings never did have the chance to cross the stage and pick up a diploma (yet), so our friend, the youngest of four children, is making family history. It is a celebration of his commitment, his family’s encouragement and love, and the engagement in local community organizations that have been able to lend a hand when necessary with supports such as tutoring, mentoring and engagement opportunities.
Along the way Dakota has built relationships with Elders, learned more about traditional ways and become more connected to his culture and the story of his peoples. He is the definition of warrior: strong, brave, courageous and caring. We are grateful Dakota has invited us along his journey and seeing him grow and his successes have been a gift to be witness to. He and his story is a reminder of why the education, formal and traditional, of Indigenous youth matters. More young people, like our friend Dakota…they too will cross the stage this June, picking up a piece of paper that speaks to why our future as a country and as Indigenous Peoples is bright.
It’s also why we are very excited to announce our newest project we have been engaged with, Enhancing Indigenous Education Through Co-Creation. Together, youth and adults and Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders in education, we must come as one to address the serious inequities in the education of Indigenous students and ensure that we are learning from all areas about how to enhance education and increase the number of graduates across Canada. We know this is one of the paths to success for young people and together we can celebrate and learn from the successes, like that of our young friend while creatively and in a collaborative way create the action required to enhance education systems to ensure the success of all Indigenous students in Canada.
The Gathering of Youth Wisdom convened by the Rideau Hall Foundation and facilitated by Three Things Consulting is recruiting youth leaders interested in Indigenous education issues to take part in a national gathering that will include Indigenous youth from every province and territory. The work done by these youth will be carried to a second gathering in June, The Enhancing Indigenous Education Through Co-Creation Gathering which will include Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders and education experts who will be working on co-creating a strategy to develop a national project, informed by youth voice, that will support best practice in Indigenous education, improving outcomes for Indigenous learners. These gatherings are part of a larger project being undertaken, Enhancing Indigenous Education Through Co-Creation.
We are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside the Rideau Hall Foundation and the many youth, leaders and organizations who together will demonstrate how co-creation processes rooted in respect, honour and courage can create meaningful and lasting changes for Indigenous youth across Canada. This project will ensure that the Dakota’s of the world have their voice heard, be active contributors to the enhancements that are so very necessary in Indigenous education and find success, in school and beyond. Because when Dakota succeeds, we all succeed.
*(Photo:Dakota H. over the years; a reminder why Indigenous education matters. Name and photos shared with permission of both Dakota and his mother.)