Stepping on the lands of the Sami peoples – the cold air gripping the mountains, the hills abundant with green growth, and the richness of traditional livelihoods being real and true, orchestrated a feeling of strength and pride of these peoples. The amount of traditional knowledge invested within the Sami people is enough to carry conversations into the early morning hours on reindeer herding, yoiking, and the history of peoples, much like our own on Turtle Island. Yet what truly binds us together as Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island, and the Sami people, is our strength we honor from the earth and our strength from the traditional territories we live on.
Arriving in Norway for the International Indigenous festival, Riddu Riddu, and for the Youth Program called “What’s Up North,” came with a sense of unknowing. The expectations carried soon dissolved after setting foot on the grounds. Holding close to me the tools of knowledge based on the Indigenous Rights movement which began in Canada, my sacred medicines, alongside ideals and concepts of Indigenous Governance on Turtle Island brought a sense of security in knowing how to explain these two very large concepts to Indigenous youth from around the world. Yet, after putting semaa (tobacco) down on the traditional territory of the Sami people, I knew the reality was that this experience was meant to show how integral, and resilient, traditional livelihoods and realities are to Indigenous peoples globally.
Presenting on the “INM” movement and the system that currently operates on Turtle Island as an Indigenous governance structure came with connotations of how we, as Indigenous Peoples, need to reset and redefine governance structures which currently dishonor our traditional realities. The movement on Turtle Island has been attempting to dissolve a structured system based on colonial thought, the Doctrine of Discovery, and other such colonized entities. Now it has created universal Indigenous unification by decolonizing global space and barriers depicted by western society. The power of deconstructing systems forced upon Indigenous peoples truly lays in Indigenous knowledge being generationally passed down. This was shown highly during Riddu Riddu and What’s Up North where youth, adults, and elders shared the reality of Indigenous truth. Whether Buffy Sainte Marie shared stories of language revitalization, or Marie Boine sang with power from her heart and spirit, I saw our ancestors standing proudly around us, applauding us for becoming living, breathing prophecy. Yet, the real learning came from the sharing of song, dance, and art. Because within these forms comes spirit, our ancestors, and most importantly, the integrity to showcase what was once banned within the lives of Indigenous peoples around the world.
With sharing the history of the movement that began on Turtle Island, sharing the stories of standing in a sea of brown skin with pride in cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, and LA, brought a sense of grounding and belonging. Not simply because it was revitalizing a part of history that partnered with prophecy, but because the sense of understanding from the Sami peoples showed how much momentum this movement has achieved. The concepts surrounding the movement, realities of Indigenous land sovereignty, ceremony and prophecy, respect and honouring of inherent treaty rights, and the recognition of free, prior, and informed consent are all notions that are related to Indigenous peoples globally. These components are thriving in the blood and movement, and it’s something that holds a specific moral teaching. Indigenous realities are the same around the world.
90 Sami youth gained more information on the Indigenous reality in what western society deems as Canada, yet one Anishinaabe youth gained traditional knowledge revolving around reindeer herding, the importance of traditional territories, the power in yoiking (Indigenous singing of the Sami People), and most importantly, the beauty and power in global Indigenous knowledge transference. The Indigenous world may seem large, but when it comes to our traditional ways of being, our knowledge contains similarities which can be heard as loud as the pow-wow drum. Indigenous youth, whether they are Sami, Ainu, or Anishinaabe, know the authenticity and truth in ceremony always surpassing politics and western society’s concept of successful social status. Our traditional livelihoods cannot be dismissed or dissolved, and neither can the passion of our young people globally decolonizing space, time, and social realities universally.
The “What’s Up North” Indigenous youth program, and Riddu Riddu, the International Indigenous festival combines ceremony, generational knowledge transference, and the unification of Indigenous peoples globally. By becoming engaged in learning the power of our languages, stories, and songs, defines a dialogue that exceeds status quo and colonial interferences, because when youth transfer Indigenous knowledge globally, Indigenous actualities will never be deemed extinct.