LaRose Smith first to be elected MN-S Youth Council president
- Andréa Ledding | December 16, 2021
Autumn LaRose-Smith is the first elected president of the provincial youth council of Métis Nation – Saskatchewan.
The SUNTEP student at the University of Saskatchewan and Outreach and Programs Administrator of the We Matters anti-suicide campaign, said she looks forward to amplifying the voices of Métis youth, transforming the youth council and connecting youth to each other, culture and services.
“I am really passionate about helping community and just people in general,” said LaRose-Smith, who doesn’t see herself as a politician, but loves volunteering. A proud queer Métis youth, she sits on the OutSaskatoon board, the Ness Creek Music Festival board, the University of Saskatchewan board, and in 2020 was the first female Indigenous president of the University of Saskatchewan Students Union (USSU).
“I guess I’ve come into this by being recognized by community and being asked to run. It was a big decision for me to decide to run for president of the Métis Nation Youth Council because I love my current job so much,” she said.
But as with the USSU Presidency, it was Métis youth who encouraged her to run. To her, this is a full-time job and Métis youth are her bosses. She looks forward to transforming the council into a driving force for change and putting forth the voices of youth from urban and rural centres all over Saskatchewan.
“I know mental health is a very serious concern for Indigenous youth all over Canada, and especially Métis youth,” which is part of her job at We Matter, she notes. “I’m hoping to bring in the work I’ve done in other positions and use that to support Métis in Saskatchewan. Sustainability and environmental advocacy is really important...also that connecting to culture and exploring our identities is really important. MN-S has a huge priority to increase their registration for citizens.”
LaRose-Smith says her main priority is to engage youth, so they are motivated to register with MN-S, where they can explore culture, identity, history and traditions. She encourages youth who have just discovered their Métis ancestry to reclaim their culture, history, identity, and to honour their ancestors; to know that it isn’t their fault or shameful to resist the colonial narrative trying to erase them, and to continue a public discussion of who Métis are and are not.
“We’re all still learning and in the process of reclaiming culture and history,” she notes, adding concerns can differ by region, so youth voices from the north and south need to be represented in a meaningful way.
“It’s listening and then making whatever they want to happen, happen, alongside them,” she said.
LaRose-Smith says youth are engaged and interested but haven’t been given opportunities to show their involvement. She encourages anyone interested to step forward because everyone brings different gifts and talents to the table.
“If you are interested, we can make it work. I’ll work with you to find out what your gifts are, and make sure you can succeed in that way and be a part of something that is a lot bigger than each of us.”
Her hopes include a Métis summer camp focused on teachings, leadership, language preservation and getting back to the land, while learning from Elders and creating community and jobs.
Overall, Métis self-governance, leadership and sustainability require youth to step up and be mentored by current leaders in power, she said.
“The challenge lies in engaging youth in every step of the way going forward,” she said, adding there is almost no mention in MN-S legislation of the youth. She wants to see youth from 16 to 29 representing every region, shadowing every minister portfolio while participating in the work being done throughout the MN-S and creating action plans for each region.
“We kind of silo youth and say, ‘Okay, you work on youth things.’ Well youth things are everything. They are health, economic development, environment development, land securement - youth really need to be involved in all those conversations.”