For several years now, Grassy Narrows has hosted a three-day gathering for youth from the community and from other First Nations communities. The gathering, and in particular this year’s theme, “Healing the Spirit,” speaks to the community’s emphasis on the power of its youth, its value on spirituality and traditional ways, and its commitment to restoring and healing the community and the land. This is one of many ways the Grassy Narrows community helps its youth to reclaim both their traditional land and ways.
The night before the Youth and Elders Gathering, we met with Lisa Martin from Christian Peacemaker Teams (a group that has mediated conflict in Grassy Narrows, Iraq and other parts of the world) to discuss the programming for the next day’s gathering. Lisa was in charge of organizing a series of activities and workshops for the youth geared at building confidence and encouraging communication and connections between those at the gathering. She emphasized how important it is to foster self-confidence in the youth of the community.
We led the group of about twenty youth, ranging in age from about nine to twenty-five, in activities including games, a demonstration of Aikido (a type of self-defensive martial arts) and discussions on issues facing the community. I have been continuously impressed by how bright, engaged and dedicated the youth from Grassy Narrows is, but I felt honored to be privy to such an honest discussion, and by how freely they shared and discussed the issues they face as Grassy Narrows youth. They openly shared their accomplishments and successes, the things (great and small) that hold them back, and the ways in which they see themselves as part of a larger cause of reclaiming land and culture—things that are rightly theirs.
Through both the blockade and this youth gathering, the Grassy Narrows community empowers its youth by giving them leadership roles and allowing them to participate and contribute in meaningful ways to their community and its struggle. And to me, that is a big part of “healing the spirit,” both of the youth, and of the community itself.
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