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OTC Youth in Service

Youth
Saskatchewan

The Office of the Treaty Commissioner launched a youth program this fall. Angie Merasty is currently working with us as the Youth in Service Project Coordinator. We did a quick question and answer to share more about the program.

What is the project called and why?
The project is called Youth in Service – Moving Saskatchewan Towards Reconciliation.  Office of the Treaty Commissioner hosted two youth conferences in 2016 – one in the north and one in the south.  The youth in attendance asked for their voices to be heard and that action be developed to define their roles in helping Saskatchewan move towards reconciliation

Why is it important to engage youth in Reconciliation? 
The youth in this province are our future. Many of the Youth are still learning about what their parents, grandparents went through in residential school. The stories are important and need to be share. The youth want to be included in the discussions; they want to share in the healing and ensure that history is not repeated. The youth have expressed that they are more open-minded today and more open to change, they want to have input into reconciliation and be part of the solution.

How many youth are involved and in what capacity?  
In 2019 OTC hosted two youth conferences.  There were over 150 applications for the two conference.  Fifty youth were selected to attend the two conferences.  From the 50 youth selected for the conferences, the OTC selected 36 youth to work on the Youth in Service project.  The Youth in Service is divided into three working groups: Youth Advisory Council, Youth Speakers’ Bureau, and the Touring Cadre.  There are 20 youth working within the Youth Advisory Council, 10 youth working within the Youth Speakers’ Bureau, and 6 youth working with the Touring Cadre. 

What kinds of things are you doing? 
The first step was to engage the youth immediately by inviting them to participate in truth and reconciliation events, speakers bureau events where they learn the history of the Treaties and Indian Act, Residential Schools, cultural and land-based events such as feasts, round dance, Elder’s teachings, events that have a cultural exchange component i.e visiting the local Mosque, finding opportunities for them to participate in workshops like white privilege and race relations in Saskatchewan. Often young people do not know their own strengths, or they are not yet able to articulate their interests and skills. Helping youth identify and use their strengths is critical: it is a way to motivate them to develop the skills they need to succeed because they certainly want a voice and want to be heard.

What is your role? 
My role is the Youth Project Coordinator. I work with the OTC in the coordination of promoting the civic engagement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, to enhance and build upon the efforts of OTC, particularly related to reconciliation. Part of the work includes outreach into a variety of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and the building of mutual understanding through maintaining respectful relationships.
Currently the bulk of my role is now leveraging the participation of 36 Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to work with various reconciliation partners in a variety of forms and projects and we do this by developing leadership, management, public speaking, and community engagement skills and give the Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in Saskatchewan a platform to be heard

What is the highlight for you so far? 
The highlight I have witnessed to-date is the excitement and eagerness of the youth wanting to participate in everything we have thrown at them. They are engaged and learning so much along the way. The other highlight is seeing how well the Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth are connecting to each other, how well they are getting along and relating to one another, this gives me such hope for our province’s future.

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