High Prairie School Division launched its new Youth Council for Reconciliation [YCR] by hosting a special speaker April 12.
Kendra Jessie, of Sucker Creek First Nation, spoke to a group of 90 students from Grades 9-12 to learn more about reconciliation and what they can do to create positive change in their schools and communities, says an HPSD news release April 25.
“As a young person, you hold power and value,” says Jessie, a Cree and Ukrainian woman and former HPSD student.
“You are our future leaders, decision-makers and policy-makers.
“Each of you has unique gifts, abilities and knowledge to share.
“Remember that you have a special place in history.
“You have to be the change that you want to see.”
She has become a certified personal fitness trainer, certified hockey coach through the National Coaching Association of Canada, and a Nike ambassador. As well, Jessie has a Bachelor of Sport Management Honours Degree from Brock University.
She emphasized the importance of honouring the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, which started in 2021, to recognize the impact of the Indian Residential Schools.
“This is a day to honour survivors and inter-generational survivors,” Jessie says.
“There are many people still living today who are affected.
“This is not in the past.”
She explained what reconciliation looks like.
“Reconciliation must be the responsibility of all who occupy the colonial state of Canada,” Jessie says.
“It is not just a one-way relationship.
“The truth needs to be revealed in order to heal and move forward in a good way. We cannot move forward if the truth is not taught, not heard, not learned.”
She expressed it is great to see students learning about reconciliation at a young age as many, including herself, learn about reconciliation only as adults or when they attend post-secondary.
Some Elders have shared with her that reconciliation has an additional component.
“Reconciliation is deeper than individual to individual,” Jessie says.
“It is reconciling with plants, animals and water. These relationships have been destroyed and this is a big interconnected relationship that needs to be reconciled,” she adds.
She was asked what people can do to help and support the reconciliation process.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has created 94 calls to action,” Jessie says.
“Read and acknowledge the 94 calls to action.”
Regarding herself, she has focused on calls to action that centre around sport, recreation and physical activity.
They are changes she is passionate about and in which she feels she can make impactful change.
Jessie sees a need to reclaim space in those areas for Indigenous people to reclaim generations of wellness knowledge that have been lost due to the disruption and loss of culture through the residential school process.
Diane Bellerose, HPSD’s Indigenous education lead, says the YCR serves a vital role.
“It will be great to see the YCR leading youth-based initiatives,” Bellerose says.
“The students know they want to see and hear in the schools.
“All we need to do is give them tools and a space and then step out of the way.”