On Monday, December 5th, Focus Forward For Indigenous Youth hosted a screening of the film Bee Nation and a silent art auction of beautiful works donated by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists as a fundraising initiative. The proceeds from this fundraiser are all going towards our inaugural greenhouse build in Montreal Lake Cree Nation.
For those who have not yet had the opportunity to view Bee Nation, it is a documentary filmed in 2016 which follows First Nations students in Saskatchewan who are competing in the first ever provincial wide Spelling Bee competition. Bee Nation is an inspiring film that highlights some of the success stories coming out of Indigenous communities across the country. The First Nation students competing are full of confidence, optimism, and dedication. While parents, friends, classmates, and teachers offer nothing but support and encouragement for their spelling champions. The documentary highlights how an opportunity or an extra-curricular activity, such as a Spelling Bee, can motivate students to work towards a goal, help develop their self-confidence, and grant them an opportunity to explore what is out there. The movie relays an important message to Indigenous youth “of look what you are capable of”.
Our three guest speakers who joined us for the evening and led the post-movie discussion reaffirmed the importance of delivering these positive messages not only to the Indigenous community, but also to the Canadian community at large.
For instance, our first speaker Shannon Monk Payne emphasized the importance of the highlighting success stories in Indigenous communities to balance the negative messages that often overwhelm the media. Shannon spoke about “Cultural Confidence” and the Circle Approach to Cultural Confidence ™, which gives non-Indigenous people the tools and skills necessary to create meaningful relationships and working partnerships with Indigenous people. Part of her approach to reconciliation involves dispelling the myths and stereotypes surrounding Indigenous communities across Canada by providing a lesson in history from the Indigenous perspective, in order for everyday Canadians to feel comfortable and confident asking questions.
Our second speaker, Melanie Howard, currently the director of Aboriginal Access to Engineering at Queen’s University, similarly reiterated the importance of introducing Indigenous youth to opportunities and experience that will encourage them to pursue an education in STEM. Due to the reality that within the field of engineering the Indigenous population is vastly underrepresented, Melanie and her team seek to encourage youth to pursue an education within in the engineering field, proving to them that they have what it takes. Finally, Thomas Dymond, our last speaker, reflected on his own personal experiences being involved in extracurricular activities growing up and of, more recently, being one of the few Indigenous students in his field of study.
The film Bee Nation and our guest speakers emphasized the importance of providing Indigenous youth access to a variety of opportunities, which in turn fosters self-confidence and helps them explore what is out there; a message which Focus Forward For Indigenous Youth relays in our own missions. Through our greenhouse projects, Focus Forward For Indigenous Youth aims to not only introduce students to different career possibilities within the trades, but also to help develop their self-confidence by allowing them to see what they are capable of achieving.