Two new faces take on FSIN Youth Representatives role
- NC Raine | May 20, 2022
Sometimes numbers are the best way to appreciate a new event. There are over 175,000 Indigenous people in Saskatchewan, according to Statistics Canada. One of the fastest growing demographics in the province are Indigenous youth aged 15-24, who make up almost a quarter of all youth in Saskatchewan.
This past April, at the Rezilient 8th Generation Conference, two new Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Youth Representatives were elected to stand and speak on behalf of the youth from all of the 74 First Nations in province.
And those two new leaders are just 19 years of age. For the next two years, Hailey Rose from Mosquito, Grizzly Bear’s Head, Lean Man First Nations, and Brock McLeod-Waditaka from Wahpeton Dakota Nation will proudly provide a voice on behalf of their peers.
“I feel overwhelmed with emotions and I’m truly honoured and excited for what this has to bring,” Rose told Eagle Feather News shortly after being elected.
“I’m happy and excited for this opportunity,” added McLeod-Waditaka. “I’ll do my best for the youth, because they are the future.”
Although still teenagers, both young leaders had been thinking about this opportunity for a long time. In 2015, Rose met former Youth Representative Rollin Baldhead, who was on the FSIN youth council at the time, and attended the Carrier of Hope youth conference. Those experiences unlocked something in her.
“That was my first experience feeling like I had a voice and was heard. It made me realize youth need to sit in bigger positions because we can make decisions too. We should have a say in what goes forward,” she said.
McLeod-Waditaka said ever since he was very young, he has been around leaders, motivational speakers; people who motivated him to become a leader himself. It’s that young generation, those in need of help, who continue to motivate him.
“There are youth out there that don’t have a home to go to. Or a home with no mom or dad to hug and say ‘I love you’ to,” said McLeod-Waditaka. “I think we need more leaders for the children, for them to look up to.”
As FSIN Youth Representatives, Rose and McLeod-Waditaka will be spending time attending conferences, travelling the province, meeting and talking with youth. Issues youth today face, according to Rose, include depression, social anxiety, and emotional trauma as a result of the pandemic and the tragic news of finding unmarked graves at Residential School sites. McLeod-Waditaka said, in his perspective, the priority for youth today should be education.
“I think, from a very young age, we need to show youth how important education is, and how it will help them succeed in the world,” said McLeod-Waditaka.
“I want to use the next two years showing youth how to turn their pain into strength,” added Rose. “How to fully balance their medicine wheel to be the best version of themselves and help identify who they are as Indigenous people.”
Despite having very similar priorities and convictions, Rose and McLeod-Waditaka are relative strangers to one another. But already they are seeing strengths in their counterparts as leaders.
“Hailey is really open-hearted. She really loves what she’s doing. So I look forward to working with her,” said McLeod-Waditaka.
“I can already see that Brock walks with very strong cultural values,” said Rose. “That part of us was lost, but I know he will bring that back to life. With his cultural values, he’s going to do great things.”