The Youth Circle for Mother Earth (YCME) is a new project designed to support a cross-cultural network of young Indigenous and other environmental leaders to become lifelong ambassadors for nature and conservation.
The idea for the project emerged after these four partners co-hosted two gatherings, the first in October 2017 and the second in May 2018, to discuss and help inform future dialogue on next steps for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) in Ontario. IPCAs aim to safeguard Indigenous rights — including the right to exercise free prior and informed consent — while also maintaining biodiversity, and securing a space where communities can actively practice Indigenous ways of life.
Some discussions at the gatherings focused
on Indigenous youth knowing their rights, the importance of connecting youth
with the land, the value of collaboration and building cross-cultural literacy,
and bridging Western science with Indigenous knowledge systems. Many
participants stressed the importance of educating and engaging youth through
hands-on, land-based learning experiences and reconnecting them with Indigenous
cultural knowledge and practices.
At the London gathering in 2018, a panel
of eight youth shared their thoughts about the issues being discussed and next
steps. They called for action. The need to reform systems and to include youth
in conversations, networks and decision-making. The youth made recommendations,
and our partners listened.
Dan Longboat – Roronhiakewen (He Clears
the Sky) created the Indigenous Environmental Institute at Trent University and
led discussions at both IPCA gatherings. At one of the gatherings, he shared this statement:
“I’m happy to see the young people here, people to take this work forward. You can be an inspiration in your community. There’s no better work than to do the Creator’s work, working for the continuation of all Life.”
My name is Shaelyn Wabegijig. I’m a young Algonquin Anishinaabe kwe, Caribou Clan, and the project manager for Plenty Canada. I am grateful to help develop the foundation of the YCME for two main reasons.
The YCME will provide a platform for Indigenous youth to share their voices, represent their communities, and to protect the lands and waters that mean everything to them. It also provides opportunities for youth to build skills from both Indigenous and Western worldviews and strengthen cross-cultural cooperation. I believe this cross-cultural and intergenerational cooperation is essential to solving the most challenging issues that humanity is collectively facing.
That is why we are creating the YCME in Ontario. To invest in youth working together to make meaningful change by building cross-cultural capacity and increasing youth engagement. We hope to provide guidance to help youth fight for their future and the right to have a healthy and peaceful environment for all Life and our future generations.
We are currently accepting nominations the project’s Coordinating Circle, a group of 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous young leaders who are committed, forward-thinking, open-minded, self-reflective, open-hearted and eager to learn from their peers, Elders and other knowledge holders. For more information, or to self-nominate or nominate a young person, visit our Youth Circle for Mother Earth webpage.
Indigenous youth who are selected to be part of the Coordinating Circle will also be invited to attend a leadership retreat at Trent University on August 16-18.
Shaelyn Wabegijig is an Algonquin youth from Timiskaming First Nation and Caribou Clan. She graduated from Trent University in 2018 with a BAH in Indigenous Studies and Philosophy. She currently works as a Project Manager for an Indigenous, environmental, non-government organization called Plenty Canada and is working on multiple projects to involve youth in conservation efforts.