Investing in youth through Indigenous racing needed at this time
- Alyson Bear | June 29, 2021
There is so much going on in our world right now. The recent discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian residential school at Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation cannot be overlooked, nor the many other burial grounds yet to be uncovered at other Indian Residential School sites.
Some days it feels like no matter how much proof there is, people continue to look away and deny the truth that Canada has been built on genocide. This is important to acknowledge when discussing our mental health and holistic wellbeing as a people. There are so many contributing factors when it comes to our health and Indian Residential Schools is a significant one for our Indigenous Nations.
The Covid-19 pandemic is an additional contributing factor creating stress, anxiety and depression in our communities. These can result in unhealthy coping mechanisms like addiction, self-harm and suicide. There are many different avenues to deal with the pain but now it is up to us to choose wisely. Because our ceremonies and way of life were targeted and outlawed by the Indian Act, causing identity crises, we now have to do the work to reclaim our ceremonies and ways of being that root us in our identity.
Knowing who we are makes us stronger to face the ongoing barriers and adversities from the wider society of systemic discrimination from ongoing colonialism and genocidal tactics our people and people of color are faced with. The purpose and intention of the Indian Residential School System was to “kill the Indian in the child” and therefore feeling ashamed of who we are has been passed down inherently. It is a new era where our youth are taking pride in who we are and reclaiming the truth in our history.
Indigenous excellence and revitalization of traditional practices needs to be highlighted and at the forefront, especially for our youth. The Elite Indian Relay Association promotes and has given space for the new Young Arrow program and the sacred connection we once had with horses. This connection to horses is healing: those who have been around them in nature know how good it is for our mental health and holistic wellbeing.
I attended the Indian Relay Races in early June at Poundmaker Cree Nation and in May at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, where I spoke with Chief Tanya Aguilar-Antiman of the Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation who is one of the founders and Managers of Young Arrow.
“Young Arrow was created to inspire upcoming warriors; promote self-pride and confidence; promote nation to nation pride and relations; balancing, promoting and encouraging the Indigenous languages and cultures within the fastest Canadian horse sport Indian relay,” she said.
“Young Arrow provides opportunity for youth and horses to come together to bond, to learn responsibility, having a sense of purpose, and healing through building a relationship collectively. Young Arrow youth Indian relay clinics are held nation to nation; the overall outcome goal is to provide the opportunity for youth to be affiliated to a youth Indian relay team.”
Young Arrow was only launched this year and has had more than 60 participants with eight youth in each session and will be expanding in the years to come. Young Arrow is run through sponsorship, so the youth do not have to pay to participate. There are health benefits that come from our connection to all living things. Our oral history is that our connection to horses was known as medicine.
We take this time to reflect on the realities of the dark relationship Indigenous peoples have with Canada, but also on how we are pushing forward as Nations for our youth of today and tomorrow. As Indigenous peoples are the fastest growing population in Canada we need to be investing in our youth.
For more information about Young Arrow contact 306-480-8063.