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KI youth organize hosting of 43 Canadians

Thursday January 9, 2014

The Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) youth who invited 43 Canadians from across the country into their community in June is Wawatay’s youth story of the year.

The week-long trip to KI was the first time many of the 43 guests visited a First Nations reserve.

The event was spearheaded by four youth: Justin Beardy, Faith McKay, Leona Matthews and Karyn Paishk.

McKay said the goal of the event was to bridge the gap between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people and dispel negative perspectives of indigenous people.

“These strangers don’t know much about Aboriginal people – well most of them,” she said. “We do have our problems, but we try to be as happy as we can and we have pride in our land and we wanted to show them.”

Three of the youth cite the Idle No More movement and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike as an inspiration for pushing themselves to incite change.

Beardy and Paishk helped to organize a prayer walk in their community in December 2013, and Paishk joined other community members the following month when they walked from Toronto to Ottawa in support of the movement and Spence.

Peter Love, a part-time lawyer and member of the Toronto Rotary Club, said most Canadians know little about Aboriginal history and their perspective.

“We’re terribly ignorant,” he said. “But this (KI trip) is the process of learning.”

The visitors were thrust into life in KI immediately. They stayed in the homes of community members and were given tours of the homes of various residents.

“I think the thing that struck me the most is how tough the life is here,” Love said, noting the poor housing conditions and high cost of food.

The visitors took part in an open forum with community leaders. They also took part in traditional activities like fishing and canoeing while being fed traditional foods such as goose, moose, and fish.

The trip to KI concluded with a celebration on Aboriginal Day with prayers, drums, songs and a feast.

As far the youth organizers were concerned, the event turned out to be well worth all the hard work.

The event succeeded thanks to a community effort, Paishk said.

“I’m so proud to be from here, KI. This is our home,” she said. She noted the laughter and cheers around the community grounds. “You see this right? This is the spirit of KI, and I don’t think it’ll ever die.”

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