Sustainable Development Goals 10 – Reduced Inequalities, SDG 5 – Gender Equality, SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being

Primary Media
Indigenous and racialized youth hold a banner saying "Search the Landfill" in many languages.
Participants at the 2023 Indigenous and Racialized Youth Gathering hold the banner they made in support of Camp Morgan.
Credit: Joni Shawana
Published On: February 7, 2024

For International Development Week 2024 (February 4-10) we share a story about how Indigenous and Racialized young people from the United Church demonstrate solidarity, friendship, and caring for one another and their communities.

The Indigenous and Racialized Youth Gathering, held at the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, near Winnipeg, Manitoba, is so important to young people. It is a space to gather and to shed the pressures of a world that has placed expectations and stereotypes on them. A space where young people can be free to be themselves, to gather with others who look like them and be in an intentional space where they can be their authentic selves.

The program supports young people to develop their leadership skills throughout the year. In early 2023, three participants from the previous year, Kayleigh, Inzwi, and Sarah, came together and offered their leadership skills to develop the 2023 youth gathering program and decide on how their time together would look.

One of the young people mentioned that being entrusted in developing a program like this (where there weren’t opportunities to do so in the past), helped to build leadership skills and confidence.

Interview with Inzi, a participant at the Indigenous and Racialized Youth Retreat of 2023

United Church staff Springwater Hester-Meawassige, Emo Yango, Rey Anderson, and Joni Shawana supported the young people at the gathering. Springwater and Emo support the program year-round through their work at the United Church. 

During the 2023 gathering, the participants visited Camp Morgan to be with the people there, to learn from them and offer them the sign made by the young people. They wanted to let the people know that there are young people who stand in solidarity with them. 

Many of the young people found it difficult to translate “Search the Landfill” in their Indigenous language, so together they came up with “the search for the hidden truth.” At Camp Morgan, families, friends, and supporters who had been tirelessly advocating to search the landfills were moved by the support of the group. The visit to Camp Morgan meant a lot to the young people and to Springwater and Emo.

After the Camp Morgan visit, participants went to a powwow in Winnipeg, where Waab Kinew addressed the arena, just before he was elected premier of Manitoba. In this moment, the young people realized the magnitude of listening to Waab Kinew. At the powwow, all the young people were engaged, were able to express who they were, and supported one another as a unified group. 

An interview with Antonio, a participant at the Indigenous and Racialized Youth Retreat in 2023

One of the young men, Nathaniel from Oxford House, MB helped the group to build a fire, cook pickerel, and make bannock. Inzwi wanted to learn how to build a fire as part of her rights of passage, and the young men in the group taught her. They also taught each other their traditional songs.

Springwater says of the gathering: “As an adult, it was a beautiful thing to witness. I heard the young people say they had no idea this was missing from their lives.” 

In February 2024, the youth leaders, and two additional young men—one Racialized and one Indigenous—will gather to plan this year’s programming.

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