Reconciliation in action: Youth United Grant helps young Winnipeggers bridge cultures

Building relationships between Indigenous students & their teachers is a path forward to reconciliation.

St. John’s High School students in the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program received a $1,000 grant from United Way Winnipeg’s Youth United to help organize a sweat lodge for their teachers.

The Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program participants came up with the idea because they wanted to bridge the cultural gap between students and teachers, and help them experience an important aspect of Indigenous life in the spirit of reconciliation.

Over half of the student population at St. John’s High School are Indigenous.

Youth United Liam Keep and Ernestine Mousseau presenting the proposal for the school's 'Pathway to Reconciliation' project at United Way Winnipeg.

Youth United Liam Keep and Ernestine Mousseau presenting the proposal for the school’s ‘Pathway to Reconciliation’ project at United Way Winnipeg.

In an article from CBC Manitoba, Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program member Liam Keep said, “Most of our teachers learn about it from a textbook, not really being involved in learning about the culture.”

The hope is that in deepening teacher’s knowledge about their students, they will strengthen the relationship between them—and thusly contribute to improved graduation rates.

“It’s kind of hard to understand someone when you don’t know much about who they are and where they come from,” said Ernestine Mousseau.

Keep named the project “Pathways to Reconciliation,” in recognition of the work ahead to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

St. John's High School's Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program students stand outside tipi during a sweat lodge outing designed to advance reconciliation.

St. John’s High School’s Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program students stand outside tipi during a sweat lodge outing designed to advance reconciliation.

Youth United awarded the grant because organizing a student-led sweat lodge aligns with their mission to encourage positive social change. The project is also in keeping with United Way Winnipeg’s inclusion philosophy and support for the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action, inspiring a journey of healing, truth and reconciliation.

United Way Winnipeg is committed to inclusion, reconciliation

The project also speaks to one of United Way Winnipeg’s Council for Indigenous Relations (CIR) foundational pillars; that of engaging youth in meaningful, culturally inclusive activities. Funding a project like this recognizes the importance of the next generation and their ideas.

“Youth have an energy and insight that is important to include in CIR plans and activities,” writes CIR in their strategic plan.