Growth: International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
By Savanna Boucher, youth blogger
Growing up people always said I had potential, that I’d be the one to get out, as if we were living in some sort of jail system. But how do you believe something like that when you don’t even know why you are theoretically locked up? You don’t know what I’ve been through and you don’t know the things I’ve done. Why or how would I be the one to make it out? All I knew was the hate of others, full with rage, sadness, feeling alone, abandoned, and forgotten. Dressed in shame, I wore my hood up because I didn’t want people to look at me, to see who I was, that I barely talked, sat in the back, afraid, insecure and unnoticed. I lived in a city where the murder rate for First Nations people is high. A bridge burned and never repaired separates the local First Nations community from the city, a physical representation of the relationship held between First Nations people and non-First Nations people. Strangers felt free to make race-based comments, and threatened people I cared about, threatened me.
How can someone have hope to get out when this is all the life you know? And I can tell you, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. So I became a runner. I ran from the things that hurt me and, honestly, who would want to stay in that life?
The one thing I held onto was education; I knew it was my only way out. Learning showed me that I am not to blame for the life I was given and that I am in control of what can happen next. I began a journey I never imagined I’d take in my life. Part of me still believes to this day, one year later, that it is still a dream that someone is going to take it away, that it is only temporary. However, I know the lessons I have learned, and the love and kindness that I have been shown will always stay with me in my heart.
This journey is Feathers of Hope, a First Nations youth movement lead by youth, youth like me. I was hired as a Youth Amplifier at the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, not expecting that much would come from the experience. I thought I knew about family, friends, community, but nothing of the wider world believe it or not. This journey has taken me to places I never thought I’d experience, never thought I was worth. Now, when I stand in front of people and talk about the opportunity of Feathers of Hope and what it means to me, what it means to the people’s hearts that it has touched, hairs slowly rise on the back of my neck. Feathers of Hope showed me family, friends and community. It showed me that people out there care about people like me. It showed me hope and, most importantly, showed other young people out there struggling that there is hope too. I continue to do this job of educating others because I remember the times I felt hopeless. I want them to know that there is so much more out here in the world.
Feathers of Hope is a youth-driven, community-based initiative that leads change. Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan is a report stemming from these conversations among youth, culminating in 3 recommendations to make hope real, and is supported by the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. UNICEF Canada supports First Nations youths’ right to be heard, works in tandem with the Ontario Advocate’s office, and encourages collaborative processes that lead to improving the well-being of all children in Canada.