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© Lora Denis
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 YCME was made possible thanks to the partnership of four organizations: The Indigenous Environmental Institute at Trent University, Ontario Nature, Plenty Canada, and Walpole Island Land Trust.
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.
The YCME, as I read about it in the Ontario Nature Blog, is a wonderful initiative. I commend Dan Longboat for initiating the IEI at Trent.
Best wishes to Shaelyn Wabegijig, Project Manager for Plenty Canada for your leadership.
Best wishes to the youth who want to be a part of the Coordinating Circle.
Like you all, I care a lot about the environment.